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'-• «•':.»•;• •** 




H 6ttlbe to the Bnoler 












'* •* *i '. .. '. /•'iN^RIBED 


There are more ways than one of seeing a fresh 
country. One may make a lightning tour through 
some of the chief towns, race through the picture- 
galleries, and glance at the buildings of interest. 
The traveller does not learn very much of the 
country and the people by flying along the beaten 
track and staying in conventional tourist hotels. 
When I wander, at home or abroad, I choose for 
preference a cross-country line. The hills, the 
rivers, and the forests, appeal to me quite as 
powerfully as the cities, cathedrals, and works 
made by hands. With the rustic person every- 
where I have a sympathy. I love the open air 
and those who dwell where there is calm and 

Our journey in Spain and Portugal was rendered 
varied and instructive by combining the recreation 

vi Preface 

of trout-fishing in the wilder regions with visits to 
the towns and their museums of art. In this 
chronicle I have written chiefly upon the days 
spent by lonely streams and in little rough 
hamlets of the mountains. Few anglers visit 
Spain expressly for the pursuit of their sport. 
This is because so few fishermen know where to 
go and how to fish in that delightful country. I 
went, I saw, and I was not disappointed. When 
opportunity offers I hope to go again, equipped 
with the experience of my first itinerary. It is not 
true that all the Spanish rivers are * poached to 
death,' that the trout are small, and that poor 
sport awaits the angler in the Peninsula. I have 
shown in these pages that some of the rivers teem 
with trout of a sport-giving weight. These streams 
are free, and they will compare with waters in 
Great Britain which can only be fished at a high 
charge. I might even say that they will contrast 
with them to the decided advantage of the Spanish 
rivers. The reason for my faith will be found in 
this narrative. 

Some of the matter forming these chapters 
appeared first in the columns of the Field. With 

Preface vii 

the kind permission of the editor of that journal, I 
have incorporated portions of the articles in this 
volume. I also beg to thank the art editor of the 
Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News for leave to 
reproduce some photographs which formed the 
illustrations to my wife's account of a lady angler's 
adventures in Spain. 


The Crimbles, 

Aprils 1904.^ , 



I. EN PASSANT - - - - I 



IV. A GOOD DAY - - - "37 

OF SANTANDER - - - - 47 




IX. STREAMS IN Le6n - - - 88 




XIII. AT PONFERRADA - - - - 121 


XVI. DOWN THE MINHO - - - 1 54 

XVII. THE SHAD OF ARb6 - - - 164 


X Contents 


XVIII. AROUND TUY - - - - 171 





INDEX - - - . . 225 


NETTED - - - - 




















Fishing and Travel in Spain 



* Look at those droll English people ! Wherever 
they go they take fishing-rods with them,' said 
one Frenchman to another as we boarded the 
packet at Newhaven. 

The sea was calm as an inland pool, and we 
had a quick passage to Dieppe. At last my wife 
and I were on the way to Spain. The plan of 
travel had been discussed for months, during a 
winter sojourn among the Norfolk Broads, and 
preparations made for an unconventional tour 
of the Peninsula. And now we were really upon 
the road to the land of sunshine and vines, the 
country of Cervantes and Velazquez, the home 
of the mingled races of the East and the North, 
the romantic Iberians. We were going to leave 
the beaten path whenever it was possible, to stay 


2.V -i, ♦;Fislung. and Travel in Spain 

y^.: i^', **: \' ' * V- . " 

in mountain villages, to explore the river gorges 
with our fly-rods in our hands, and to study the 
manners and customs of rural Spain in the re- 
motest regions of the kingdom. 

Perhaps it was that delightful book *Wild 
Spain,' by Chapman and Buck, that first turned 
my thoughts toward the possibilities of sport with 
the rod in the Peninsula. It is true that these 
authors devoted most of their time to shooting ; 
but a part of their volume treats upon trout- 
fishing. Their account of angling in Spanish 
rivers of the northern provinces is not highly 
encouraging to the fisherman. The writers 
appear to have fished occasionally by way of 
passing a few hours, when there was no oppor- 
tunity for bustard or partridge shooting, or in the 
summer months when the gun was laid aside. 
They had a rather doleful experience of some 
much-poached rivers. Upon this subject I have 
something to say in my pages. At any rate, in 
spite of Spanish poachers, and the assertion of 
a London fishing-tackle dealer, who said that 
the trout of Spain were very small and not too 
plentiful, we resolved to see the rivers, fish in 
them, and judge for ourselves concerning their 
sport-giving capacity. 

En passant 3 

The * Angler's Diary' gave a more hopeful 
account of fishing in Spain. I learned from 
this annual that one might travel cheaply in 
the Basque Provinces, Asturias, and Galicia, and 
obtain in some parts very good fishing from the 
end of February until the close of the season. 
There was also the probability of salmon and 
sea-trout-fishing in certain of the Biscayan rivers. 
Some articles in the Field were useful in the 
information which they gave upon several streams 
of the North of Spain. But, as I had arranged 
to contribute an account of my Spanish fishing 
experiences to that journal, I determined to seek 
new waters, and to furnish a fresh narrative of 

Only the keen fisherman can sympathize to the 
full with the zest with which one seeks adventures 
upon a new river. The pleasure is great when 
the angler finds himself for the first time on the 
bank of an untried stream in his own country. 
It is an even greater enjoyment to roam by a 
riverside in a new land, and to test one's skill 
with the trout of foreign waters. The complete 
change in one's environment is in itself fascinating ; 
and there is a charm in the thought that trout, 
uninstructed through long generations in the arts 

I — 2 

4 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

of the wet-fly, dry-fly, minnow, and clear-water 
worm anglers, may await you in sequestered pools 
of wild and, perchance, unexploited streams. 

Speculation of this kind occupied my thoughts 
as we rolled slowly in the train through the green, 
monotonous levels of France to the first glimpse 
of the majestic Pyrenees. Beyond this rocky 
barrier was Spain, the country of our dreams. 
We crossed the Nive and Nivelle, streams that 
looked likely for the fly-rod, and soon the wide 
estuary of the Bidasoa, the first Spanish river, 
came in sight. This stream of mountain birth 
waters a series of beautiful valleys in the province 
of Navarre, till it merges into the tidal waters 
between Hendaye, the last town in France, and 
Irun, the first town within Spanish territory. 

My wife took the bundle of rods, which had 
aroused the mirth of the Frenchmen at Newhaven, 
and I carried the two bags to the Customs office. 
The officials rummaged the contents of the bags, 
and paid marked attention to the fishing-gear. 

* What is it ?' I understood the officer to 

* Canas para pesca ' (Rods for fishing), I replied, 
timidly uttering my imperfect Spanish. 

He handed me back the bundle, and a porter, 

En passant 5 

in a striped blouse and a blue Basque cap, inti- 
mated that he would carry our luggage to the 
fonda (hotel). We stepped out of the railway- 
station, and scented the salt water of the blue Bay 
of Biscay. The porter gesticulated, and talked 
in his native tongue. A group of loungers stared 
curiously, wondering whether we were French or 
English folk ; and we came to the fonda, odorous 
of garlic and olive-oil, with a dimly-lighted dining- 

It was early March and chilly. The sole 
means of warming the house was a copper 
brazier of smouldering charcoal on the staircase 
landing. A real caballero was pacing up and 
down, wrapped in his capa (cloak). Yes, and 
there was the tinkle of a guitar in the street ! 
We were indeed in Spain. A gleam from the 
setting sun rested upon a gray peak of the 
Pyrenees. We sat down to our first Spanish 
dinner. There was red wine upon the table and 
a dish of green olives. 

After the meal, I questioned the landlady's son 
about the fishing in the Bidasoa. He spoke 
French, and told me that we must take the coach 
for several leagues up the river, to the town of 
San Esteban. There were trout there in abun- 

6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

dance. Some were as long as your hand ; others 
were almost as long as your forearm. For his 
part, he had never fished; but he knew that 
English people and a few French came to fish 
in the Bidasoa.f 



As I have said, the Bidasoa is the first Spanish 
river which one crosses upon entering the Pen- 
insula from Bordeaux. Its lovely valley will 
dwell long in my memory. Most Englishmen 
know of the Bidasoa through its association with 
the Duke of Wellington's famous crossing of the 
river with his troops during the Peninsular War. 
Only a few of my compatriots have heard of the 
stream as one yielding sport to the fisherman ; 
but among those few are two or three Britons 
who travel in the spring from their wintering 
places in the South of France to revisit favourite 
lengths of the charming river. 

At Irun the Bidasoa widens to a fine estuary. 
There is nothing to detain the fisherman in Irun, 
though, if he has journeyed from Paris, he will be 
glad to rest for a night at the hotel in the plaza. 
Before starting up the river, let him communicate 


8 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

with the Marques Eugenio Uztdriz, at the Palacio 
Reparacea, Oyeregui, Provincia de Navarra, Spain, 
who receives paying guests in a fine old mansion 
on the left bank of the Bidasoa. The palacio 
contains several bedrooms, but now and then in 
the fishing season there is a run of visitors. It 
is therefore advisable to engage a room before- 

I found these comfortable quarters by an 
accident. Upon leaving Irun by the diligence, 
it was our intention to stay at a riverside inn 
about sixteen miles up the valley. But the only 
room in the venta was occupied by an English 
angler, and the hostess informed us that there 
was no other accommodation for travellers for 
several miles on the road. Fortunately, one of 
our fellow-passengers in the coach proved a friend 
in need. He was an officer of artillery and a 
native of Navarre. ' If you will ride on for three 
hours,' he said, * I will find you lodging in a 
palace where they are used to English people.' 
The prospect of staying in a palace was certainly 
alluring, though I must confess that such fortune 
seemed at first unlikely to fall to our lot after 
setting out in the hope of obtaining quarters in 
a rough roadside inn. However, our companion 

A Week on the Bidasoa 9 

assured me in Spanish and French that he would 
undertake to find us bed and board for as long as 
we chose in a well-appointed house. And not 
only this : he engaged to send on a messenger 
from the next village, where the coach stayed an 
hour, to announce our coming to the hostess at 
the palace. 

My courteous friend was as good as his word. 
When the diligence drew up in the dark at the 
Palacio Reparacea, two servants took possession 
of our baggage, and the proprietor himself appeared 
to conduct us to an enormous dining-room. A 
quarter of an hour after our arrival we sat down 
to a well-served dinner of five courses. By what 
process of conjuration these preparations were so 
speedily accomplished I am quite unable to relate. 
The bedroom was ready, warm water was pro- 
vided, and a neat and comely Basque girl, named 
Maria, showed us every attention at the table. 
The bedroom, by the way, was that wherein the 
Iron Duke slept in the stirring days of the 
fighting in this part of the Bidasoa Valley. 

In the long room I found a visitors' book with 
several English names in it, and some notes on 
the fishing. A bookshelf had upon it several 
novels with famiHar British titles. So much 

lo Fishing and Travel in Spain 

for the quarters, which I can only speak of in 
praise and remember with pleasure. As to the 
terms per day, it is no secret that we were asked 
the modest price of 5 pesetas — i.e., about 3s. 6d. 
in British money. 

And now for the trout -fishing. Soon after 
breakfast next day we went out to the river, 
which almost washes the walls of the palace, and 
began to fish a sharp run of rough water. My 
first capture was a samlet. I cast again, and 
hooked a trout, a quarter-pounder, on a blue dun. 
It was my first Spanish trout. I looked at him 
curiously and lovingly. He was clean, plump, 
and prettily spotted, with nothing to distinguish 
him from our British trout. But he fought more 
lustily than our half-pound trout ; indeed, in all 
the Spanish waters the fish ^are surprisingly 

We spent a very pleasant mid-day on the length 
near the palace. The day was soft and rather 
dull, and the trout were taking the natural flies 
with their spring avidity. Beautiful woods sloped 
to the river, and above them were outlying peaks 
of the Pyrenees. The scene resembled a Scotch 
glen. Primroses dotted the banks, and in a gleam 
of sunshine hibernating butterflies fluttered by the 

A Week on the Bidasoa ii 

river. During a lively rise from about twelve till 
two I caught sixteen trout, and hooked and 
released a number of samlets. Here, for the first 
time, I met a Spanish rod fisherman. He spoke 
the Basque language and a little French. His rod 
was made of maize stalks, with a hazel switch 
for the top, his cast was coarse, and his flies 
clumsy and big. Still, he was keen and clever, 
and he knew all the good runs in the river. 
Another native, who watched me one morning 
when I was pricking or catching a trout at every 
cast, wrung his hands and uttered strange cries in 
sheer excitement. 

That morning gave me really fine sport for 
about half an hour. I noticed several rises to 
blue duns in a nice swift glide close to the 
opposite bank. Wading in almost to the tops of 
my waders, I was able to cast over the rising 
trout. A jerk at the top joint of the rod and 
a screech from the reel followed almost every cast. 
One after another, without moving more than 
a few yards downstream, I brought trout to the 
net. Nine fish, weighing from 6 ounces to J pound, 
and three fish lost, was my score in that memor- 
able half-hour. Then suddenly the blue duns 
vanished, and not a trout would move. I went 

12 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

further down the river, and took four more fish in 
a short time. One of them was f pound, and, 
though I held him hard, it was five minutes before 
I could bring him to the net. 

We spent a delightful week at the Palacio 
Reparacea, and if the rain had not refused to fall 
we should have prolonged our stay in that hospit- 
able retreat. The river was somewhat low and 
clear when we arrived, and each day the water 
became lower and the weather brighter. 

During a mild wet spring the Bidasoa may 
be relied upon as a sport-giving river. I had 
quite enough success to make me long for a few 
days upon its banks during the coming season. 
Sumptuous board and lodging, attention and 
kindness, good fishing, and grand scenery, are the 
attractions of this length of the Bidasoa. There 
is no charge for fishing beyond the five-peseta 
license, which must be stamped by a provincial 
Governor. The civil guards are quick to notice a 
strange angler on the river, and the license should 
be obtained before beginning to fish. If the 
license cannot be stamped at Irun, the diligence- 
driver will bring one from Pampeluna. 

For some miles above the palace the Bidasoa is 
very rough, with stretches of tumbling water and 


A Week on the Bidasoa 13 

many rocks in the stream. I fished upstream 
one day, but found the exertion of scrambling too 
severe to set against the resultant sport. For 
wading, the best water is between the two bridges 
near the palacio, and as far down as the little 
town of San Esteban. Below this point I did not 
venture. Judging by my observation during the 
diligence ride from Irun, I should say that there 
are several miles of fishable water between that 
town and Oyeregui. 

After my article on the Bidasoa had appeared in 
the Field, a disappointed angler, who adopted the 
lugubrious nom de guerre of * Caught Nothing,* 
wrote to that journal declaring that the river had 
been mercilessly poached during the summer 
following my visit to the Palacio Reparacea. 
'Considering that the rivers in Spain,' wrote 
this fisherman, * have been poached, dynamited, 
night-hned and netted since prehistoric times, with- 
out being restocked, is it reasonable to expect fish 
of any size ?' To this pertinent query I will offer an 
affirmative answer. I have seen, caught, handled, 
and eaten, trout up to 2 pounds in weight from these 
* depleted ' rivers. Other anglers have had the 
same tangible experience, and on the authority of 
the well-known * Angler's Diary ' published at the 

1 4 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Field office, we learn that the river Sil (afterwards 
the Minho) in GaHcia, contains trout as large 
as those of almost any river in the world. 

Wherever trout are found, there also will 
poachers pursue their arts. Let that always be 
accepted as an axiom, and accepted with philo- 
sophic patience, though not with indifference. 
We need not travel to Spain to find the illicit 
fisherman. The records of salmon-poaching in 
the United Kingdom during the exceptionally 
good seasons of 1903 and 1904, as set down in 
the newspapers, are sufficient proof that the illegal 
taking of spawning fish is a widespread and 
profitable industry. It is useless to blink this 
plain evidence, and to suppose that the reported 
cases of poaching represent one-half of the full 
extent of the depredations. 

Most poaching is undetected. It is success- 
fully conducted throughout Christendom and 
elsewhere. The receivers and organizers in our 
orderly and law-abiding nation are often among 
the * respectable ' members of the community. I 
am myself in a position to mention the names of 
a doctor, a solicitor, and a schoolmaster, who are 
* in ' with a powerful and well-managed syndicate 
of salmon-poachers. The ignorance of riparian 

A Week on the Bidasoa 15 

owners, members of boards of conservators, and 
fishermen generally, concerning the nefarious de- 
struction of fish in their own districts is pathetic. 
How often I have heard this formula : * Oh no, 
there's no poaching here ! The rivers are too 
well watched.' Now, grant that two keepers, 
both alert and able-bodied, are told off to watch 
a four-mile length of a river : is it possible for 
these men to guard every pool of that stream by 
day and night during every season of the year ? 
You may preserve, restock, scrupulously observe 
the size limit, kill all coarse fish, and employ a 
small regiment of water-bailiffs ; but there will 
still be poaching more or less. 

My friend * Caught Nothing ' asserts that the 
Spanish rivers have been poached almost to the 
extermination of trout, and he maintains that the 
Bidasoa will be * troutless' in two years. Why in 
two years ? The Bidasoa has suffered this alleged 
depleting process for centuries. No doubt during 
every dry summer for 300 or 400 years the 
natives have netted, night-lined, groped, and what 
not. And yet in 1902 anglers could still contrive 
to make a very fair basket of trout on any favour- 
able day during the spring months. 

No one will say that the famous Dove is a 

1 6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

doomed river. It is true that the trout are ten- 
fold more wary than their ancestors of Izaak 
Walton's day ; but the stream still produces its 
millions of fry every year, and there are fishermen 
who know how to lure the wily trout of that 
classic river. Yet I am told, on very good 
authority, that the upper reaches of the Dove 
were systematically poached all the year round in 
the days of our grandfathers. You can diminish 
the number of fish in a stream by netting and 
other illegal methods, but depletion is another 
matter. Even the use of dynamite will not 
deplete rivers with big and deep pools, such as 
alternate with shallows on the larger streams of 

All the deplorable and abominable practices of 
the poachers of Spain or any other country work 
great harm, and threaten the angler's right to 
enjoy his inoffensive recreation. But the greater 
evils are river pollution and the modern system 
of field drainage. From these destructive forces 
trout cannot escape. Spain is, happily, almost 
free from poisoned and contaminated waters. 
Some of the rivers in the mining districts of the 
North are polluted and fishless ; but in the well- 
watered Peninsula there are thousands of miles of 

A Week on the Bidasoa 17 

pellucid and beautiful streams, with no factories, 
works, mines, or big cities, within leagues of their 
lengths. Such a river is the Bidasoa in its course 
from the mountains of Navarre to its first meeting 
with the tidal waters. Its numberless hill tribu- 
taries are the natural hatcheries of trout, and the 
river possesses all the proper qualities for the pro- 
duction of fish-life. 

There are rivers in Spain that contain much 
bigger trout. My heaviest fish was f pound, and 
I saw none that appeared heavier, though I was 
told that pounders are fairly common in some of 
the rivers. The conclusion of the whole matter, 
so far as my experience goes, is that the Bidasoa 
gave me as much sport as I should expect in one 
of the Welsh or Yorkshire streams of repute 
during a week of average March weather. And 
as regards the question of cost, the Bidasoa 
certainly has it for cheapness when compared 
with the most moderate of our subscription and 
ticket waters. The fishing is free, except for 
the license, costing about 3s.; and the charges 
for board and lodging are certainly lower than 
one pays in England for the less dainty cookery 
and indifferent accommodation provided by the 
average fishing hostelry. 


1 8 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

The venta, or roadside inn, at Yanci, lower 
down the river, has one room to spare for fisher- 
men. I am told that the place is clean and the 
food presentable. An English gentleman, whose 
name is associated with the turf, has been the 
guest there more than once after wintering in the 
South of France. I do not think that this angler 
would visit Yanci if there were no trout there. 

Before our departure from Oyeregui, a gentle- 
man, with the title of Chevalier, and his wife, 
arrived on fishing bent. He had learned about 
the Bidasoa from a fishing-tackle manufacturer in 
the North of England, and had travelled from 
St. Jean de Luz to Irun by rail, and on to the 
palacio by diligence. The new-comer gently re- 
proved me when I told him that I had given a few 
artificial flies to the local anglers. 

* You'll teach them to fish,' he said. 

* That is my intention,' I answered. ' Infect a 
man with the passion for fly fishing, and you make 
him a sportsman. I hope that the natives, who 
have seen that trout can be caught by fair and 
interesting methods, may be persuaded to become 
fishermen instead of poachers.' 

But the Chevaher was sceptical. 

One afternoon my fellow-traveller, the artillery 

A Week on the Bidasoa 19 

officer who had shewn us so much kindness on the 
road from Irun, paid me a visit. My stock of conver- 
sational Spanish was scantier then than at the end 
of my six months of wandering. Still, we contrived 
to talk upon several subjects, helping one another 
with phrases in English, French, and Spanish. Our 
visitor was a handsome man, with blue eyes and a 
fair beard. In his blue boina, a cap resembling 
the tam-o'-shanter, he looked like a * braw Scot * 
from Perthshire. He told me that his favourite 
sport was quail-shooting. I questioned him con- 
cerning the wild animals and the game of the 
district, and I learned that sangres wild-boars, 
were preserved for hunting on an estate not far 
from the palacio. Deer were also found in the 

* Are there still brigands in Spain ?' I asked. 

The officer smiled, and replied : 

' Yes, a few. Show me your map.* 

I gave him a map of Spain, and, opening it, he 
put his finger down near to Toledo, and then upon 

My friend was not a fisherman (pescador), but he 
liked trout to eat. I offered him my morning's spoil, 
which, with pressure, he accepted. He wished 
that he could speak English fluently ; he had taught 


20 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

himself enough of the language to translate a book 
upon botany for his daughter. With French he 
had a perfect acquaintance, and, being a Basque by 
birth, he spoke that strange old tongue, as well as 
the pure Castilian Spanish. 

Long live the Basques ! They are a charming, 
hospitable, sturdy, and honest race. Their country 
is one of noble mountains, rocky gorges, and 
shaggy hills, wilder than Scotland's Highlands, 
but not unlike them. In their hardiness and 
integrity the Basques are Scottish ; in their gaiety 
they are Irish. Their frames are usually spare, 
and they move with a lissome grace. Treat them 
as caballeros, and they will show you every kind- 
ness. One of their foibles is ' patriotism.' The 
love of one's country is everywhere commendable ; 
but an exaggerated patriotic sense often manifests 
itself in nations, including our own, in a prejudice 
which is perhaps most fitly described as parochial. 
I will say no more. The Basques are a lovable 
folk. They have the virility and the native 
intelligence that make for progress. Long live 
the brave Basques in the glorious region for which 
they have striven against foes since the time of 
the Moors ! 

We left the delightful old palacio and its 

A Week on the Bidasoa 21 

courteous owner with reluctance. The hostess 
hoped that we would come again. Maria took 
our fishing-rods and bags, and a diminutive lad, a 
foundling in the service of the Marqu6s, staggered 
down the broad staircase under the leather trunk. 
It was too heavy a load for those narrow shoulders 
and thin legs. I took the trunk, in spite of 
Maria's protests and amazement, and carried it to 
the venta to await the coach. 

A soldier on Excise duty drew near and eyed us 
closely. I gave him a military salute, which he 
returned. Then came the clatter of six mules' 
hoofs upon the dusty road, and the jangling of their 
harness bells, and the rocking, swaying vehicle drew 
up at the door of the inn. Our traps were placed 
on the roof of the coach, and we took our seats in 
the interior. Maria waved her hand, the little 
crowd of rustics smiled a farewell, the driver 
cracked his formidable whip and cursed a mule 
named Tia (Aunt), and we started on the long stage 
to the venta at the head of a lonely and steep pass. 

As we ascended, rain began to patter on the 
roof of the diligence. It had come too late. I 
sighed and thought of the freshened river, and the 
sport that I might have enjoyed had I remained 
for a few more days in the lovely vale of Oyeregui. 



During March, 1902, the weather throughout 
Europe was more than usually variable. In 
Northern Spain one day was as warm as mid- 
summer in England, and the next cold, with a 
north-easter blowing, and snow falling in the 
higher regions. At Oyeregui we had a week of 
warm weather, and upon one day, at least, the 
heat was oppressive at noon. When we left 
Bilbao, en route for the Rio Ason, the day was 
gray, with tokens of rain in the sky. 

I would warn fishermen not to waste their time 
in fishing the streams in the immediate vicinity of 
the manufacturing town of Bilbao. Ironworks 
and mines mar the scenery near this port, and the 
rivers are mostly polluted. On the authority of 
the British Consul at San Sebastian — a beautiful 
watering-place a few miles to the west of I run — 
I learned that the river there gives no sport to 


Trout^fishing on the Rio Ason 23 

the rod fisherman. The coast fishing, however, 
should be good. Sea-bream and other fish are 
very abundant off the rocks, and there are plenty 
of small boats on hire. In the estuary at San 
Sebastian I saw large shoals of fish at low-tide, 
which looked like gray mullet. A Spaniard told 
me that they were difficult to catch with the rod 
and line. There is rod fishing at this place, for I 
saw a woman collecting small crabs for bait, and 
long lines hung along the quay to dry. 

Between San Sebastian and Bilbao several 
streams flow into the Bay of Biscay. The river 
most noted for trout is the Deva, and while run- 
ning by its side in the train I saw several rises on 
one pool, and the usual fishing-nets hanging on 
walls. A day or two might be spent on the Deva, 
if the angler's route lies that way, as it will if he 
travels from Irun to Bilbao. 

From Bilbao to Santander is a rail way- journey 
of a few hours. The train travelled in the sedate 
manner to which we were growing accustomed, 
and we were soon in a lovely valley, with rocky 
hillsides and hamlets built on ledges. As we 
proceeded the scenery became even finer. We 
crossed a few streams, and drew near to a range 
of gray, snow-capped mountains. Our com- 

24 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

panions were mostly Basques of the working 
class. The men wore the customary striped 
blouses, boinas, and cloth trousers, and for their 
foot-wear shoes of canvas, adorned with red or 
scarlet worsted, and soled with hemp. 

There we had our first view of the Ason in its 
upper lengths. The river rushes impetuously in a 
series of narrow gorges, to widen into deep pools 
and spread over gravelly shallows. It seemed 
an ideal water for trout. Near to one of the little 
stations we saw a pescador with a long, clumsy 
rod, which he was using with both hands. 

About a league above the tidal water of the 
Ason, in the province of Santander, is the village 
of Ampuero, with its stone bridge, large weir, and 
tributary brook hurrying from the mountains. 
Here we left the train on this dull March day, 
bent upon fishing and research concerning the 
rivers of this wild district of Northern Spain. 
Most of the villages in the Peninsula possess a 
posada, or inn, but we were dubious as to the nature 
of the hospitality which Ampuero provides for the 
stranger. Our doubts were, however, dispelled 
when we ascended a broad staircase to a light 
and clean dining-room, with large windows and 
balconies, and encountered an elderly and most 

Trout-fishing on the Rio Ason 25 

courteous seiiora and her pretty niece, who at once 
made us understand that we were not the first 
English anglers to stay in the house. Our hostess 
then proceeded to enumerate the dishes which 
she could provide at a cost of 5 pesetas a day, the 
menu including fowl, meat, fish, eggs, wine, coffee, 
and liqueurs. No one but a gourmand could 
possibly grumble at such fare, while the price was 
less than the cost of the poorest board and lodging 
in an English fishing-village; so we at once de- 
cided to take a room in the Posada Gabriele and 
to dine at the general table. 

In the afternoon a soft rain began to fall, when 
I put on my wading-stockings and started for a 
trial hour with the trout below the weir. The 
weather had been hopelessly bright and fine for a 
fortnight at least, and we had already noted the 
clearness of the water. But there seemed the 
likelihood of sport in the sharp stream, and, 
putting on a cast with a March brown and a blue 
dun, I opened the campaign, and immediately 
caught a smolt in its silvery mail. This proved, 
at any rate, that there were salmon in the Ason, 
and the capture of half a dozen samlets in a few 
minutes led one to suppose that a considerable 
number of fish ascend the river to spawn. A 

26 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

deeper run yielded the first trout, one of 6 ounces, 
which fought like a Scotch three-quarter-pounder. 
The rain now pattered down steadily, but the 
more it rained the better the trout rose, and for 
twenty minutes I rose, pricked, and caught fish 
with rapidity. One trout, which escaped by 
leaping, was a two-pound fish, and I lost another 
after a short fight in the rough water. 

My wife had not unpacked her rod. While she 
watched me from the bank, a group of village 
children gathered around her. They were amazed 
to see me standing up to my knees in the river. 
My wife's fishing-coat of mackintosh greatly in- 
terested them. They had never seen such a 
garment. I learned from these youngsters that 
there were salmon in the pool which I was fishing 
— salmon of an extraordinary size, judging by the 
children's estimate of their length. I carried 
six trout back to the inn at dinner-time. The 
biggest was just upon f pound, and the smallest 
about 6 ounces. A steady rain set in with nightfall. 

I rose early the next morning, and found that 
more snow had fallen on the mountains, though 
it was not lying in the valley. The river was 
swollen and discoloured, and, worst of all, tainted 
with melting snow. 

Trout^fishing on the Rio Ason 27 

We went out after breakfast and tried the fly. 
It was a hopeless case. The Ason seemed to be 
rising, and even the worm was refused by the 
trout. But the next day was genial, and the 
river, though high, was in fair order for fly fishing. 
Seiiora Lopez, of the fonda, gave us a prodigious 
luncheon. There were three big mutton-chops, 
half a yard of white bread, four hard-boiled eggs, 
a piece of cream cheese, a packet of biscuits, 
some oranges, and a pint bottle of red wine. 
When I had carried this weight of provender, and 
my wading-stockings, brogues, mackintosh, rod, 
and landing-net, a couple of miles on this warm, 
moist spring morning, I wished that our hostess 
had been less liberal with the contents of her 

We followed a well-made highroad, up the left 
bank of the river, for nearly three miles. The 
river flows close to the road, and at a pretty bend, 
where the stream forms a series of sharps and 
shallow pools, we crossed a meadow to the water- 
side. Birds were twittering in the budding trees 
fringing the stream. I saw a few blue duns sail 
by while we arranged our tackle. One might have 
been in Yorkshire instead of in Spain, for this 
part of the Ason reminded me of a length of the 

28 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Ure near Hackfall. No one was in sight. The 
river was our own for the nonce. 

We began to cast with three flies, a blue dun on 
point, an orange dun for the second dropper, and 
a March brown as an upper dropper. The orange 
dun was a hackle ; the other flies were winged. A 
samlet came up at my first cast, hooked himself 
firmly, and was back in the water in a few seconds. 
The first trout of the day fell to my wife. He 
took the orange dun, and made a short, brave 
fight before I netted him. We put him on the 
spring-balance, and he weighed a little over 
^ pound. 

Soon after this capture I took a brace of small 
trout in a little run near the bank, and turned 
over a bigger fish. A half-pounder took the blue 
dun, and sundry samlets were caught and returned 
to the river. It was now noon. We waded 
across to an islet near a weir, and sat down among 
the osiers to eat our luncheon. While we sat 
there, a salmon, weighing between 8 and lo pounds, 
leapt out of the water a few yards from the bank. 
I was soon upon my feet, trying to lure him with 
a sea-trout fly. But he was not to be tempted. 

The afternoon gave us better sport. While 
making a long cast across a turbulent run into the 

Trout^fishing on the Rio Ason 29 

quieter water on the other side, I felt a fish. 
In an instant he turned his head downstream, 
entered the foaming run, and rushed away at a 
tremendout pace. Nearly 30 yards of line left 
the reel before the fish checked. My wife waded 
in, took the landing-net, and anxiously watched 
my bent rod, while I recovered line foot by 

* Have you seen him ?' she whispered. 

* No, but he feels Hke a four-pounder in this 
stream,' I said, trying to work the fish towards the 

Presently the trout jumped. He was a big 
golden creature, but not 4 pounds in weight. 
I judged that he would need careful holding with 
my drawn cast and small hook. 

This was one of the wildest trout I have ever 
played. It may seem absurd, but it was nearly 
ten minutes before I brought him into the dead 
water near a sandy beach. At no moment in the 
struggle was I able to get below my fish. If I 
pursued him, he went further down the stream, 
and threatened to take me out of my depth. The 
river - bed was rough, and there were some 
treacherous holes. The trout jumped more than 
once ; in short, he tried every trick known to an 

30 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

intelligent fish. At last I drew him gently on to 
the sand and seized him. He was very brilliant, 
clean, plump, and in the pink of condition. He 
weighed ij pounds. 

Stimulated by this success, we went up the river 
to another run, where we found both trout and 
samlets on the rise. The latter were certainly 
more abundant than the trout, but a few more 
half-pound fish were dropped into the bag. By this 
time the sun was low and the rise was over. So 
we took our rods to pieces, drank the last glass of 
the thin, sharp wine, and started for Ampuero 
along the right bank. This is the most picturesque 
side of the stream. A little path rises and sinks 
along the rough hillside, where many beautiful 
ferns grow among the rocks and bogs. In some 
parts the walking is not too safe, for the path is 
narrow and slippery, and there are sombre deep 
pools below the cliff. 

Our catch of trout was spread out for the 
inspection of the senora, her son and niece. They 
expressed astonishment at our skill. ' Did the 
senora catch the big one ?' My wife said * No.* 
But was she not the first mujer pesca (woman 
fisher) who had ever been seen or heard of in 
Ampuero ? Had not her reputation already 

Tfout^fishing on the Rio Ason 31 

reached the surrounding villages ? Of course, 
it was the senora who caught the biggest trout. 
* Bueno ! bueno !' The good hostess patted my 
wife's cheek. We presented the landlady with the 
big trout and some of the others. The remainder 
were fried for ourselves. 

The average weight of the trout in the Ason is 
J pound, but the strength and gameness of the 
fish are astonishing, and I would rather catch 
these lively half-pounders than fish of double 
their weight in certain English and Welsh rivers. 
Possessing every natural advantage for the plenti- 
ful production of trout, the Ason is well stocked 
with fish, and it is lucky that the river is pro- 
ductive, for the natives have no notion of preserva- 
tion. The chief injury to the river is caused by 
the use of nets in some of the salmon-pools, and 
by the capture of immature fish in poke-nets 
during low-water in the summer. Nevertheless, 
I know subscription waters in Great Britain that 
are considered good lengths, and yet yield no 
better baskets than the Ason, which is free to 
everyone. We were often followed along the 
riverside by a group of excited spectators, who 
greatly coveted our English -made tackle, and 
sometimes begged for moscas — i.e., flies. 

32 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

The Spanish angler pursues his sport under 
such disadvantages that it is no great wonder if 
if he adopts nefarious modes of fish-catching. A 
fly-rod can hardly be bought in Spain, and no 
artificial flies are made, except those home-made, 
badly-tied lures employed by the village fisher- 
men. It is, therefore, easy enough to treble the 
take of the native angler, who flogs the streams 
with a piece of cord tied to a maize-stalk, and 
uses a coarse cast armed with an impossible fly 
on a big hook. During a week's fishing we met 
four or five fishermen, but the best bag any of 
them could show was a brace of trout. They 
catch a large number of samlets, which, needless 
to state, go into their baskets. 

This destruction of salmon-fry may cause the 
angler to inquire whether salmon-fishing with the 
rod is worth a trial in the Ason. In spite of the 
utterly irrational system of netting in the river, 
a very fair number of salmon are taken with a rod 
and Une. We were too early for a good run of 
fish, but a few salmon had been caught before our 
arrival, and one leapt from the water one day in 
a pool which we were fishing for trout. 

The only sporting angler of the district, a very 
courteous Spanish gentleman, informed us that he 

Trout^fishing on the Rio Ason 33 

sometimes caught both salmon and sea-trout later 
in the season. He recommended big flies for 
salmon, and said that many of 25 pounds were 
taken in the nets, and occasionally on the rod. 
The salmon - rights on about four miles of the 
river above Ampuero are owned by the Alcalde, or 
Mayor, of the little town of Gibaja. This gentle- 
man sold the right of fishing with nets by auction 
three years ago, and it was acquired by four 
residents in Ampuero. One of these is the son 
of our hostess at the Posada Gabriele, and from 
him I learned that the best runs of salmon are 
during the summer months. 

Now, although four speculators consider it 
worth their while to pay about ^^40 a year for 
the fishing -right on this length, they express 
extreme astonishment at the folly of returning 
samlets to the river, and apparently take no 
interest in preserving the water. Whenever the 
villagers saw us throw in samlets, they implored 
us not to waste fish, and held up their hands in 
wonderment at our stupidity. Stranger still, the 
aforesaid senor of the inn was quite unmoved 
when his mother begged us to bring home all the 
samlets for the larder. Truly, all that is fish 
comes to the net of the Spanish pescador. My 


34 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

readers will doubtless imagine that the result 
of such wasteful practices is decimation of the 
salmon, but it is not so. A great number of 
salmon spawn in the river, and samlets literally 
swarm. In a few hours one day I caught sixty- 
five samlets in a short length of the Ason. When 
I told the people of the inn that I had returned 
all the pequenos, or little fish, to the water, their 
disappointment was almost pathetic. It was 
useless to attempt to convince them that they 
were foolish to rent a part of the river, and at 
the same time to encourage the destruction of 
immature fish. 

They left a note on the table after breakfast one 
day, begging us to bring all fish to the house. It 
was Easter week, and fish was in demand for the 

There was a tobacco- shop in the village, kept 
by a senora. This woman was much interested in 
our movements. 

* Do you sell your fish ?' she inquired. 
I shook my head. What eccentricity, to spend 
eight hours of the day, standing for the most of 
the time up to one's thighs in a swift stream, 
in early spring, catching a few trout purely for 
recreation ! The senora could not understand 

Trout^fishing on the Rio Ason 35 

such madness. And then we actually threw in 
the pequenos. Ah, what waste of good fish, when 
there were so many pobres (poor folk) about. 
Nevertheless, we appeared to be harmless in our 
lunacy. She called her son, a fair-haired youth 
with blue eyes, and seemed pleased to observe 
that, like the English senora, he was blond and 
not swarthy. Fair-haired Basques are not very 

A few miles below Ampuero is the village of 
Limpias, on the right bank of the Ason. The 
tide is felt as far up as this point, and a mile or so 
down the river expands to a beautiful estuary. 
We took train to Limpias one day, and fished 
upstream. It was bright and warm, with a glare 
on the water, and I only succeeded in hooking a 
few samlets. 

The run below the bridge at Ampuero, for about 
a mile down, is full of good trout. I rarely failed 
to rise and catch fish in this length, which has 
a firm gravel bed and is free from overhanging 
boughs. Unfortunately, the hungry samlets will 
not allow the trout to take your flies on certain 
days, but these pests are not always on the feed. 

With grief I relate that many good fish in this 
river and in others of Northern Spain are alive 


36 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

to-day through the fact that my small hooks 
would not hold them in their frenzied rushes in 
heavy water. Misled by the counsel that only 
the smallest flies and lightest casts will kill trout 
in Spanish rivers, I had brought a stock of brook- 
trout flies and fine gut for brown trout, and bigger 
flies and stouter casts for salmon and sea-trout. 
What I lacked was medium -sized blue duns, and 
these were not to be obtained in the country. 
Again and again big trout broke away from my 
tiny hooks, and twice I lost fish of over 3 pounds, 
after a painfully cautious humouring towards the 
net. Until fresh flies arrived from England I 
endured a dreary repetition of these defeats, and 
only in the interest of brother anglers do I point 
out the fact and the cause of failure. Catching a 
chalk -stream trout with a midge fly and a gos- 
samer cast is one thing, but playing a two-pound 
Spanish trout with the same tackle in runs that 
almost carry you off your legs is a very different 



The shrieks and groans of the ungreased axles of 
an ox-cart awoke me one morning during our stay 
on the Ason. I went on to the wooden balcony, 
and noted that the soil in the garden had been 
darkened by a night's rain. A soft westerly breeze 
was blowing. It was a fishing morning. 

About nine o'clock we started up the river by 
the rough path on the right bank. The drenched 
earth had an aromatic scent. Birds were singing 
in the tender green of the foliage on the slopes. 
We sat down and put on our wading-stockings by 
the side of a long pool. A trout rose repeatedly 
under a bough near the bank, and I was impatient 
to throw a fly over him. 

To-day I put on a medium cast, such as would 
scare a trout in the Derbyshire Wye or Dove, for 
I had suffered much through breakages of my 


38 Fishing and Travel Hn Spain 

fine-drawn gut. I saw the feeding trout rise once 
again, and with some difficulty I let my point blue 
dun swim down to the bough that dipped to the 
stream. There was a tiny dimple on the water, a 
tightening of the line, and I was playing a fish. 
He was soon beaten and brought to the net, a 
trout of about lo ounces. 

* A good beginning,' I said. 

We proceeded about a quarter of a mile, and 
reached a run flowing into a swirling pool. The 
bank on our side was pebbly, and there were no 
trees to interfere with casting. On either side of 
the tumbling water were oily-looking glides. The 
river had an amber stain in it. 

I began to cast, and very soon pricked a fish. 
Then came a grievous mishap. At the end of the 
run one of my droppers, an orange dun, was seized 
by a huge trout. When I struck he bounded into 
the air, a glorious yellow and brown fish, looking 
almost as big as a salmon. I gave him line, and 
he bored across the river towards the opposite 
bank. At this point in the fight he began to tug 
viciously. Something snapped. I wound in a 
limp line and muttered grimly. The fine gut of 
the orange dun had given way ! Well, such is 
the uncertainty of human destiny 1 I had lost a 

A Good Day 39 

record trout. Perhaps he weighed 4 or 5 pounds. 
At the least he was a three-pound fish. 

Meanwhile my wife had risen several trout and 
caught a small one. Evidently the trout were 
hungry. I lost no time, put on another fly, and 
cast again. And again, in a few seconds, I was 
playing a trout almost as heavy as the one that I 
had just lost. The fight was short and furious. 
I saw my fish roll over in the foaming water 
and disappear, while my line sank slack in the 
stream. At this second defeat I was too per- 
turbed to even mutter. I sat down, took a sip 
of wine, and smoked a pipe of the coarse, dry 
Havana tobacco that they sell in Spain. Pipe- 
smokers are rare in that country. 

Never mind : there are more trout in the run. 
Why not try them with a big fly? I found a 
partridge and green sea-trout fly in my book, and 
put this upon point. Casting upstream, I carefully 
worked the edges of the run. I may mention here 
that we always fished with the wet fly in these 
turbulent rivers. In a few minutes I was re- 
warded. A pretty pounder was in the net. I con- 
tinued to cast in the same run, and in ten minutes 
or so I had netted six trout, varying in weight 
from J pound to i pound. I also lost a pound fish. 

40 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

The sea-trout fly did splendid execution that 
day. If ever I am fortunate enough to fish the 
Ason in a spring freshet, may I have a good store 
of the partridge and green with me! It killed 
more fish than all the March browns, blue duns, 
olive duns, and other flies, put together. The 
trout took it with a bang and a splash, and 
followed it with intense curiosity. Alas! I had 
but one of these flies in my book. I am not an 
advocate of that sometimes deadly lure called 
the Alexandra, but I fancy that the Ason trout 
would find it irresistible. The Devon minnow 
brought no success in this river, though I found 
it kill well in the Leon rivers. I rolled over one 
fish with the minnow in the A«on, but the trout 
seemed such free risers, in suitable weather, that 
I kept to the fly. 

Samlets and smolts gave us very little trouble 
this day. The trout were in a charming humour 
for about three hours. Then the rise was over. 
I cannot account for the reason, but the fish 
ceased to feed, and during the afternoon we 
caught very few. The big run, where we had 
such a lively morning, is about two miles up, 
and is best fished from the left bank. It is not 
necessary to wade there. The bank is an ideal 

A Good Day 41 

casting-place. There is another fine stream, full 
of trout, just above the railway-bridge. It can be 
fished from either bank. On the left bank is 
a projecting rock above some circling deep water. 
Standing on this point, my wife and I caught 
several good trout one afternoon. While my 
wife was playing a fish, two caballeros hurried 
from the road across the strip of sward, and 
stood to watch the sport. They had never seen 
a woman fishing. 

* Bravo, bravo, senora!' exclaimed one of the 
spectators, a handsome Basque of the swarthy 

He applauded with his hands, and, raising his 
hat, made a graceful bow. My wife presented 
him with the trout which she had just netted. 
The caballero beamed, bowed again, and accepted 
the fish con mucha gracias. If he knew nothing of 
angling, he had learned how to carry a trout, for 
he cut a twig and inserted it in the fish's gills and 
out at the mouth. It seems that fish are carried 
in this way in all parts of the globe, either upon 
a string or twig. 

Upon this good day on the Ason we caught 
over two dozen trout, including eight or nine of 
about a pound in weight. I will say no more of 

42 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

our lamentable losses of bigger fish. We also 
returned quite a dozen small trout to the water. 
Could we have afforded more time, I have no 
doubt that our sport on the Ason would have 
been far better. Just as we were beginning to 
know the river, it was time to move on to a fresh 
district. We had some hundreds of miles to 
travel during our tour, and, as we wished to gain 
a general view of delightful Spain, our sojourns 
were necessarily brief. 

I saw no coarse fish in the Ason, except min- 
nows. These are fairly common near Ampuero, 
and no doubt they help to fatten the big trout. 
The worst enemy of the fish of this grand river is 
man. Happily, the stream is mostly unnetable, 
but small nets doubtless work mischief in the 
tributaries in dry summers. Still, what a fine 
trout river it is ! It is better than any ticket 
waters known to me in Great Britain, and can 
hold its own with many rented lengths of our 
noted rivers. 

My opinion is that the Ason would rank high 
among the rivers of Europe if a system of intelli- 
gent preservation were adopted. Many English 
salmon-anglers would willingly pay the rent of 
the fine length at Ampuero only for rod fishing. 

A Good Day 43 

Fortunately, the Spanish law protects salmon 
during the spawning season, and also inhibits 
the abominable custom of killing the fish with 
dynamite. But there are too many nets, both in 
the estuary and, worse still, in the middle length 
of the river, while samlets are entirely unpro- 
tected. As it is, the chances of sport for the rod 
fisherman are fair, for with a heavy push of water 
netting is out of the question, and many fish get 
up the river during floods. If the salmon-fisher is 
on the spot at the right time, he may reckon on 
catching salmon below either of these weirs on 
this length of the Ason. 

Permission was granted to me to fish for salmon 
on the condition that I gave up all fish taken. 
No angler could object to these terms, as the 
fishing costs nothing, and the sport is as good 
as one can expect in some highly-rented waters 
of the United Kingdom. Sea-trout begin to run 
in March, but they are not very plentiful. My 
Spanish friend, who, by the way, was the proud 
possessor of a complete rig-out of English tackle, 
said that he had taken sea-trout of 5 pounds. 
He also informed me that the biggest brown 
trout rise freely early in February, and during 
the first mild days he caught many good fish. 

44 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Our success with the trout of the Ason would 
have been better if snow had not fallen and thawed 
on the mountains during our stay at Ampuero. 
The river was more or less tainted with snow- 
broth every day, and for one day it was in high 
flood and very turbid. Still, we enjoyed quite as 
good sport as one can hope for in English water 
with a high reputation, even under favourable 
atmospheric conditions. Whenever the sky was 
dull and the wind blowing from the west, the 
trout rose very readily to the fly. We seldom 
caught fish of less than 6 ounces, while half- 
pound fish could always be counted upon in any 
of the runs, and bigger trout were by no means 
scarce. I was glad to find that the meshes 
of the salmon-nets were large enough to allow 
trout up to J pound to escape. It may be 
supposed that the nets account for many trout, 
but that is not the case. These strong trout 
frequent the heaviest streams of the river, which 
are never netted for salmon, and we caught our 
best fish in the roughest water. 

The Ason is a beautiful river, recalling many 
romantic streams of Scotland and Wales. The 
river must be waded with caution. Some parts 
of the banks are very overgrown with tall, dense 


A Good Day 45 

heath, alders, and briars, and certain runs are 
almost unapproachable. But there are many 
wide shallows which afford perfect water for 
the fly fisher. The whole length of the Ason 
is free to trout - anglers who provide them- 
selves with a fishing license, costing 5 pesetas 
(about 3s.). 

I gathered from the good people at the inn 
that there is excellent sea-fishing along the coast 
to the north and north-east of Ampuero. Santona, 
Laredo, and Castrourdiales, are little towns upon 
the sea, all within reach of the village. Ampuero 
and Marron are twin villages on the Ason between 
Bilbao and Santander. They are in the east of 
the rugged and well -watered province of San- 
tander, amongst the Cantabrian Mountains. 

I tried to buy some artificial flies in Bilbao. 
Fishing-tackle of a sort is to be purchased at a 
toy-bazaar in that town. I purchased a few flies 
from curiosity. They were of French make, big, 
and shockingly dressed. Each fly was mounted 
on a piece of cardboard, with its name printed 
beneath it, and the month of the year and time of 
the day when it would prove most fatal to trout. 
I have not used these flies. They might attract 
bass, and possibly unsophisticated chub. As to 

46 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

the time of the twenty-four hours when they 
would be most likely not to terrify trout, I should 
say between eleven and twelve on a dark, windy 
night. In discoloured water they might be pos- 
sibly mistaken for small fry by an exceptionally 
hungry pike. 



We were by this time growing accustomed to the 
ways of Spanish people. Patience and politeness 
are two qualities that the visitor to Spain should 
carefully cultivate. Do not suppose that the host 
of the hotel intends to slight you when he sends up 
your dinner an hour after the time at which it was 
promised. Punctuality is not considered a virtue 
of extreme importance in Spain ; therefore always 
allow plenty of time * for grace.' Your train may 
start five minutes before the advertised time, or it 
may arrive half an hour later. It is a safe plan 
to be at the railway-station at least thirty minutes 
before the time announced for the departure of a 

Before we had been many weeks in the country, 
we began to sympathize sincerely with those un- 
happy royal personages who endeavour to avoid 


48 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

the curiosity and the acclamations of crowds by 
traveUing as plain Mr. Brown or Mrs. Smith. 
To use an Americanism, we were * as good as a 
circus' to the rural folk. The chief interest 
centred in my wife, who was known as * mujer 
pesca' — i.e., fishing- woman ; but, of course, I 
shared in the reflected glory. We encountered 
so much kindness and courtesy that it seems 
ungracious to complain of the amused curiosity 
which we aroused. I will say, however, that there 
are parts of the United Kingdom where a woman 
in wading-stockings would have to endure down- 
right rudeness from the populace. 'Arry and 
his companions, when enjoying *a jolly Bank 
Holiday ' in their characteristic rational and re- 
fined manner, have even found my waders and 
fishing-hat a cause for loud and prolonged 

If a woman wishes to sin by attiring herself in 
a costume adapted to the pursuit of angling, she 
will, on the whole, meet with more charity in 
Spain than in Great Britain. The reason is 
obvious. In the remoter regions of the Peninsula 
of Spain and Portugal, the apparition of a lady 
who wears a hat, a plain tweed skirt cut short, 
and boots with decent soles to them, is so ex- 

Trout and Travel in Santander 49 

tremely rare that wading-stockings and a fishing- 
rod only put the finishing touch, as it were, to an 
extraordinary guise. The sheer audacity of the 
wearer of such habiliments almost disarms rude- 
ness of comment. It is terribly unconventional 
for the Spanish woman of the middle and upper 
classes to appear abroad without powdering her 
features. She may upon appropriate occasion 
wear a hat, if she is in the fashionable set, but it 
must be a floppy Parisian hat, and not one of the 
general utility type, such as British and American 
ladies wear while travelling in country parts. 

An Englishwoman is, therefore, sure to be re- 
garded as an eccentric personage, let her dress 
how she will. My wife and I wore boinas when 
we were fishing, but it was impossible to conceal 
the fact that we were foreigners. The very curs 
could not be tricked, and I believe that the 
grave, suffering, patient draught oxen, with their 
sagacious brown eyes, knew us at once for sham 

It was sometimes necessary to observe a close 
secrecy concerning our movements. We pre- 
ferred to fish where there was no risk of hooking 
an interested seiiora in her dusky hair, or playing 
a lively chico (boy) with a blue dun fast in his 


50 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

blouse. One day when I was wading in the 
Ason, a lad watched me throw in several samlets. 
Presently he took off his boots, rolled up his 
trousers, and came up to within a few feet of 
where I was standing, begging me to give him the 
samlets. As he was an intelligent and keen boy, 
who sometimes fished with an enormously long 
home-made rod, I gave him my light, ten-foot 
fly-rod, and allowed him to fish the run. To his 
great enjoyment, he caught a small trout at the 
first cast, and getting amongst a shoal of samlets, 
he had lively sport for a few minutes. I en- 
deavoured to instil a few ideas upon sportsmanlike 
angling into his callow mind, but I am afraid 
that he is still catching samlets for his mother's 

The importunity of an old peasant man, who 
followed us one day, was somewhat annoying. 
He chiefly favoured my wife with his attentions, 
and whenever she hooked a samlet or undersized 
trout, the expression of his wrinkled countenance 
changed from hope to dread, and from dread to 
bitter chagrin, when she returned the fish to the 
river. * Aqui, aqui !' (Here, here !) he cried, when 
a wriggling samlet was being taken from the 
hook. And, holding out both hands, he implored 

Trout and Travel in Santander 51 

the senora not to waste good fish by throwing 
them back into the river. 

I noted in one of the Spanish newspapers that 
a shopkeeper of San Sebastian was prepared to 
supply customers with * apparatus for the lawful 
taking of salmon.' This should be a sign that 
there are some fishermen in Spain who prefer the 
rod and line to poaching appliances for the capture 
of salmon. I hope their number will increase. 
The State is not yet alive to the advantages that 
would result from a more stringent enforcement 
of the ley de pesca, or fishing law. In a few years 
several of the overpoached rivers of Spain might 
be improved so as to excel almost any river in 
Great Britain. It would be difficult, in any 
country of the globe, to find finer natural con- 
ditions for the production of salmon, sea-trout, 
and brown trout, than in the Peninsula of Spain 
and Portugal. 

Although nets of various kinds are employed in 
all the rivers, trout still teem in many of their 
lengths. The deep, strong Ason, for example, 
holds more fish than many streams in our own 
country, whereon the charge for a day's fishing is 
half a crown or five shillings. Even the Besaya 
and Saja, two rivers condemned by the authors of 


52 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

* Wild Spain,' still yield quite as good sport as 
one may expect to find in the average open, or 
even the ordinary ticket, water in England. This 
is not optimism, but plain evidence derived from 
the careful observation and experience of one 
v^ho has fished in Wales, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, 
Devonshire, and Scotland, in streams good, bad, 
and indifferent. I think that, if the reader will 
bear with me to the end, he will agree that 
Spain has great fascination for the angler, and 
that when the people learn the real value of their 
splendid salmon and trout rivers, the country 
will be able to vie with Norway as a fishing- 

Our next river was the Besaya, which waters 
the central district of the province of Santander. 
At the little town of Torrelavega, where we stayed, 
the Besaya is joined by the Saja, the former river 
being called by the natives el Rio Grande, or 
the Big River. Trap nets are set in almost 
every run of these streams in the neighbourhood 
of Torrelavega, and big sweep nets are employed 
in the pools by the native pescadores. There are, 
however, stretches of heavy water that baffle the 
netsmen, and here it is possible to catch a few 
good trout with the fly or minnow. In one of 

Trout and Travel in Santander 53 

these runs I hooked a very big trout, which looked 
about 4 pounds in weight when it jumped from 
the water. But at the second rush it broke the 
gut of the dropper fly, and gained its freedom. 
The result of a day's steady fishing was meagre 
— seven trout from J pound to f pound. I may 
state that the weather was hot, the sky cloud- 
less, and the river very clear. Still, the outlook 
is not very encouraging at Torrelavega, though 
the Besaya is worth a trial if it happens to lie on 
the fisherman's route to other waters. There is 
a decent fonda in the town, within ten minutes' 
walk of the confluence of the rivers. The host 
speaks French and a little English. 

I must say, however, that we only spent two 
days at Torrelavega, and that both days were 
unsuitable for successful fly fishing. We are in- 
doors at the time of the evening rise, when no 
doubt we might have taken a few more trout. In 
one of the pools of the Saja, I saw several big 
trout rising, and my wife hooked and lost a very 
big fish, possibly a salmon, in a swirling place 
between two rocks. 

The river scenery in this locality is of a softer 
character than that of Ampuero ; but it is far from 
tame, and the pueblo of Torrelavega is exceedingly 

54 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

picturesque. Higher up, these streams may be 
less harried by the netsmen. They have all the 
characteristics of trout rivers, and v^ould probably 
repay exploration, and afford some baskets of fish 
early in the season. There appeared to be a large 
number of samlets in the Besaya. 

From Torrelavega we went by rail to Renedo, 
a queer little village on the Rio Pas, which has a 
course parallel to that of the Besaya, and flows 
into the Bay of Biscay, a few leagues to the east 
of the latter river. Renedo is easily reached from 
Santander by the railway. I can speak highly of 
the Pas as a trout river. Both above and below 
Renedo the river abounds with trout. Fish are 
perhaps more abundant upstream than below the 
weir near the railway-bridge, but there is no 
scarcity of trout in any part of the stream that we 
visited. Quarter-pound trout swarmed on some 
of the shallows, and the big runs were full of fish 
up to I pound. 

Our arrival with bags and fishing-rods created 
the same keen interest as that which attended 
our advent at other villages in Northern Spain. 
' There is no inn here,' explained an obliging 
cavalry officer, who was waiting for the diligence 
which runs to a spa some leagues up the river. 

Trout and Travel in Santander 55 

At any rate, there was the prospect of a meal, for 
the station was provided with a small restaurant, 
so we sat down in the little room and ordered 
dinner. Thanks to the officer, the good dame, 
Amalia Macorra, who kept the fonda, was per- 
suaded to give us a room in her house, and to 
supply us with meals at the station, an arrange- 
ment that served us admirably, and in spite of 
the asseverations of the cavalry Captain that we 
might expect the privations of a campaign, we 
were comfortably housed and well fed during our 
stay at Renedo. 

The river was in half-flood and discoloured on 
the following day. I put on rather large flies, 
and soon began to rise trout. The first fish was a 
half-pounder, and several trout were in the bag 
before luncheon-time. We fished upstream, and 
came to some pretty shallows and runs full of fish, 
which were taking the newly-hatched blue duns 
very freely. The trout seemed more plentiful 
than in the Rio Ason, but they were smaller. 
We caught no trout over 10 ounces that day, 
though two or three heavier fish fought free in 
the rushing water. Although there were a few 
March browns over the water, any other artificial 
fly proved more attractive than our March browns. 

S6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

The deeply-stained water was not altogether 
favourable for fly fishing. For the first time in 
Spain, I determined to try thoroughly the worm 
on Stewart hooks. But we had no worms, and it 
was some time before I had collected about a 
dozen from the roots of a plant growing in a 
swamp. They were, of course, very soft and un- 
clean. However, as soon as I dropped one of 
them into a run I felt a trout. He made a 
plucky struggle for a fish just over ^ pound. 
Spanish trout are hard fighters, as I have already 

Alas ! had I possessed a bag of well-scoured 
red worms that afternoon, I am certain that our 
catch would have astonished Seiiora Macorra of 
the fonda. There was no doubt that the trout 
were * on ' worms. As quickly as I threw in, I 
hooked a trout on the Stewart hooks, baited with 
a very unpresentable grayish worm. At length I 
grew tired of grubbing up roots with my fingers 
to search for bait, so the fly cast was again 
attached to the line, and we sought an undisturbed 
length of the river. 

Absolute loneliness favoured us this day. The 
folk of Renedo were holding their Sunday fiesta, 
and dancing to the pipe in the village. The 

Trout and Travel in Santander 57 

day was dull, and clouds drooped to the distant 
mountains. We took a rest at mid-day by a 
lovely bend of the Pas, where the river was broken 
by islets and rocks. Birds were singing all 
around. Now and then a trout jumped from the 
water. The river was losing its muddy stain, and 
changing to a tint of amber. 

In one swift, narrow run I both caught and lost 
several good trout. It was an enjoyable day, and 
the trout were plentiful and in a rising mood. 
Towards evening an old man joined us. I could 
understand but little of his dialect, but he drank 
a glass of our wine, and apparently tendered 
advice upon fishing. We nodded, pantomimed, 
and expressed good fellowship, and then the old 
fellow disappeared among the underwood. I was 
sorry that dinner called us away from the charming 
river and the rising trout. 



Upon our return to the fonda one evening, we 
were visited by the village doctor, who informed 
us that he fished for trout with the fly, and ap- 
peared anxious that we should have good sport 
upon the next day. From the friendly medico we 
learned that a fair number of salmon ascend the 
Pas in the spring, and that English anglers from 
the coast towns occasionally visit Renedo for the 
salmon-fishing. He had taken salmon with the 
rod, but they were small, the average weight being 
about 8 pounds. We saw no signs of salmon during 
our expedition, although the doctor stated that 
there were fish below the weir by the railway- 

There are fewer nets in this part of the Pas than 
in the lower reaches of the Ason, but we saw both 
boats and nets ready for use in the bigger pools. 
On some of the shallows there are traps for trout, 


The River at Renedo 59 

built up of loose stones in a horseshoe shape, with 
a small inlet, A few trout enter these traps, and 
are scooped out with a poke-net, or driven into an 
open sack stretched across the inlet ; but the traps 
work comparatively little mischief, and they are 
not numerous. The Pas is a productive river for 
trout, and the length at Renedo contains a quantity 
of fish. The river-banks are less rough than those 
of the Ason, and wading is practicable almost 
everywhere, except in time of flood. 

Our best day on the Pas was in the fine reach 
of broken water about two miles downstream 
from Renedo. Here the trout are bigger, and 
some three-quarter-pounders, that rose madly to 
the fly, gave us excellent sport for a couple of 
hours. In this part of the river we caught no fish of 
less than J pound. The afternoon was sunny and 
warm, and it was necessary to use fine tackle and 
to fish far off. On a cloudy day in spring-time 
these runs ought to yield a fine basket of trout. 
There is also some pretty fly water close to the 

The river widens in a broad strath below the 
weir. There are gravelly shoals for some distance, 
then a series of deep pools and another weir. 
Below this second weir are some islands, and the 

6o Fishing and Travel in Spain 

stream is divided into several sharp rapids. There 
are big trout in these runs. I was broken by a 
fish in the first of them, on the right bank, and 
here I took trout up to f pound apiece. The 
olive dun was the favourite fly, a fair-sized one of 
the winged pattern. 

These waters are almost too big in the spring 
for small hackle flies, such as one would use in the 
Wharfe or Ure. Hackles will be found service- 
able later on in the season, when the rivers are 
lower and the water fine. In March and April 
you need flies that can be seen by the trout amid 
the broken water of these impetuous and powerful 

The scenery of the Pas gains in beauty as it 
leaves the strath for a narrower dale below the 
second weir, which is about two miles from 
Renedo. There are but few houses near the river. 
Field-labourers, men and women, looked up from 
their work as we passed by. They greeted us 
with a * Con dios !' (* God be with you !') or with 
a steady gaze of wonderment. Who were these 
strange people, with leggings and fishing-rods, 
who suddenly appeared at the riverside ? No 
doubt we afforded them a subject for speculation 
and discussion. 

The River at Renedo 6i 

At one run we were having plenty of rises, till a 
peasant rode his horse through the middle of it 
and scared away every trout within a hundred 
yards. In this length I caught a smolt in his sea 
spangles, but samlets were less attentive to our 
flies on the Pas than on the Ason and Bidasoa. 
We made no trial with the artificial minnow in 
this river. Who would spin when trout can be 
lured with the fly ? But I fancy that a gilt Devon 
would tempt a fair number of good trout from 
those little eddies among the rocks. 

We saw very few rises on the Pas. This counts 
for little, however, for there are many well-stocked 
rivers whereon one notes scarcely a rise an hour 
during certain seasons of the year. 

One evening we were entertained by the station- 
master, who sang us Basque songs to the accom- 
paniment of his guitar. Our hostess and her 
family danced in the characteristic fashion of the 
district, and every effort was made to render the 
visit of * los Ingleses ' enjoyable. Any angler who 
makes a fishing visit to the North of Spain during 
the spring months should not neglect Renedo on 
the Pas. The lodging is not luxurious, but the 
hostess is an excellent cook, and the boarding 
terms are only 5 pesetas a day, including wine 

62 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

and coffee. The salmon and trout fishing is free, 
but the chances in favour of catching salmon are 
not high. 

The cavalry officer said that there were trout to 
be caught all the way up the river. Judging by 
the number of fish in the Renedo length, it may 
be safe to say that trout are quite as plentiful 
further up the stream, for the country is thinly 
populated, and netsmen do not appear to ply their 
business as diligently as the Pescadores of the 
Besaya and Saja. 

Often, when we laid down our rods and sought 
the shade of the trees by the brawling river, we 
compared the scene with familiar valleys in Scot- 
land and Wales. How curiously scenery repeats 
itself in different quarters of the earth ! I have 
read that there are stretches of hill and dale in 
Central Africa which recall the district of the 
Brecon Beacons in South Wales. Here and there 
an orange-tree or a vine reminded us that we were 
in the genial South ; but the pine-clad slopes, the 
waving osiers, the rustling aspens, the river racing 
between ferny banks, the song of the blackbird, 
and a flight of blue duns over the stream, lent all 
the details of a mind picture of dearly-loved haunts 
in our own country. 

The River at Renedo 63 

The climate of Northern Spain is not wholly 
unlike that of Great Britain. There is more sun- 
shine, that goes without saying ; still, in one week 
during March we experienced noon heat that was 
truly sultry, heavy rain, and a thunderstorm, while 
snow fell upon the highlands. Such variety should 
satisfy even an Englishman. But who shall de- 
scribe the sunshine of Spain ? Even in this 
northern region the atmosphere is steeped with 
golden sunlight, and the sky is of the deeper blue 
which we only see in the height of an unusually 
fine summer. 

No smoke canopy hangs over the towns. The 
thin blue vapour from wood and charcoal fires 
rises almost imperceptibly. Even in populous 
Seville, you must needs look for smoke if you 
would note it from the highest stage of the Giralda 
Tower. The aspect of London, when we returned 
to the rechy city after six months of smokeless, 
pure sunshine, was almost one of gloom and twi- 
light, even on a fine day. 

It rains heavily in Spain, for which one is 
thankful in the hot months. We were soaked to 
the skin more than once in the Basque provinces. 
In half an hour the river was in spate ; the red, 
marly roads were thick with slush, and the 

64 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

runnels came down the hillsides in turbid torrents. 
Sometimes the sun peeped out while the rain was 
falling ; then wonderfully vivid rainbows spanned 
the river valley. 

Fishermen, like farmers, are addicted to plaints 
against the weather. I often wished that it would 
rain, when day after day closed with a red sunset, 
betokening a morrow of brilliant sunshine. A 
glittering day in England is not in the favour of 
the fly fisherman. In Spain it is almost impos- 
sible to take trout during a dazzling noon. Up 
to ten in the morning there is the chance of 
catching a few fish during such weather ; but it is 
as well to emulate the Spanish example, and to 
enjoy a siesta at mid-day. The evening rise at 
the close of a hot day is frequently a fruitful time. 

The rivers of Spain are subject to sudden floods, 
or avenidas. This is especially the case in Anda- 
lusia, where the rain is often tropical. In the 
North, and in the mountainous districts generally, 
the streams rise rapidly after heavy rains ; but they 
soon subside, and while they are fining down, trout 
frequently exhibit great eagerness in taking the 
fly. The worm fisher, with his coarse line and 
clumsy rod, has his opportunity when the streams 
are in spate. Minnow fishing is not practised 

The River at Renedo 65 

among the native anglers. * Creepers ' and the 
live stone-fly are used by a few Pescadores of the 
kingdom of Leon and in Galicia. 

At Renedo we were free from the attentions of 
the small crowds that occasionally accompanied 
us at Ampuero. One day a priest displayed a 
languid interest in our operations, but he soon 
retired, with a pitying smile upon his features. 
Upon another occasion, as we were wading from 
the islets to which I have referred, I noticed three 
men, with a big, savage-looking dog, awaiting us 
upon the bank. The men were not ruffians, 
though their appearance was that of stage brigands. 
They were herdsmen, with olive-wood staves, upon 
which they leant in a picturesque pose. 

Not a word was uttered by them as we strug- 
gled through the swift water. As we scrambled 
up the bank the dog emitted a menacing growl. 
But a word from one of the peasants silenced 
him. And with courteous bows the men inquired 
if we had caught many truchas. I showed them 
the contents of the bag, and they nodded, and 
examined our flies with much interest. After a 
short parley they bowed again, and we went on 
our way. 

I was told before leaving England that it was 


66 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

folly to go without a revolver in the rural districts 
of Spain. As it was, I neglected the counsel, and 
upon no occasion was there the least need for such 
a means of protection. There may be an element 
of danger in travelling through the rough, unbeaten 
regions, especially if one has an imperfect know- 
ledge of the language and the habits of the people. 
Twice we were stoned from a distance while we 
were fishing. The first time that this happened 
was at Oyeregui. A lad on the road had begged 
for a centime, and we had ignored his prayer. 
We descended a wooded slope to the river and 
began to fish. Presently stones came hurtling 
and crashing amongst the underwood. None of 
the missiles touched us. I scrambled up the slope 
in pursuit of our invisible assailant. Before I 
gained the road the boy had disappeared entirely. 
At Matarosa, on the Sil, we were pelted with 
stones flung by a couple of muleteers on the road. 
Our guide, who was not with us at the time, 
described this conduct as mere playfulness. He 
explained that fishermen are a laughing-stock in 
Spain, and that it is considered an excellent joke 
to throw stones into the river close to where they 
are fishing. I know, from my own experience, 
that this boorish diversion is not altogether 

The River at Renedo (^1 

unheard of in Great Britain. There is a singular 
likeness between the louts of all nations of the 

These annoyances were trivial, and are scarcely 
worth mentioning. The spontaneous kindness 
that we experienced from the peasants vastly out- 
weighs the instances of discourtesy. Beggars are 
a pest throughout Spain, but they are far less 
troublesome in the country than in the towns. 
Now and then our tips (propinas) for services 
rendered were refused by poor folk, and they were 
always accepted gracefully by those who felt them- 
selves entitled to remuneration. A polite saluta- 
tion and the gift of a cigar will often insure you 
willing assistance in this country of courtesy. A 
present of trout is always valued. In Portugal 
we bartered an artificial fly for a quantity of fresh 
ripe cherries. The lad who proposed the exchange 
was delighted with his bargain. 

It would be good policy on the part of the 
English fisherman to carry a surplus supply of 
artificial flies with him. The offer of a few 
moscas will win the heart of the local piscador, 
whose advice as to the haunts of trout may be of 
much service, and prove a saving of time. A 
northern Spaniard, or a Castilian, will not abuse 


68 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

your kindness. He is a man of his word, with 
the virtue of impulsive generosity. If he likes to 
receive, he is also fond of giving. Treat him as a 
caballero, and he will serve you out of pure good- 
nature. When you leave the place, there will be 
the sincerity of real regret in his handshake and 



Affairs unrelated to angling obliged us to spend 
some time in the sunny southern capital of Seville. 
It was well on in the month of April, and already 
the heat and the mosquitoes of Andalusia proved 
somewhat trying. The atmospheric contrasts in 
Spain are remarkable. We encountered all sorts 
of weather in the North, from snow-showers to 
thunderstorms. In Seville the days were hot, 
under the glittering blue of the matchless Anda- 
lusian sky. Once or twice we had showers, and 
then the rain roared down from purple clouds, 
and flowed in turbid rivulets along the street 

When a lull came in our busy inspection of the 
city's monuments and works of art, my thoughts 
turned to *the sport sae entrancing.' I knew 
little or nothing about the fish of the Guadalquivir. 
Richard Ford, in * Murray's Handbook for Spain,' 


70 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

refers, I believe, to the shad of that brown, swirl- 
ing river. We had shad at the hotel, and the 
head-waiter said that it came from the Rio 

* Can one catch shad with the rod and line ?* 
was my reflection, as we roamed one afternoon in 
the shady promenade by the river. 

Pescadores with big nets were at work on the 
flood right under the Golden Tower, and before 
long I saw one of these men catch a silvery 
fish, which probably weighed a couple of pounds. 
Continuing my ramble, I observed a rod fisher- 
man seated at the waterside. He had a long, 
heavy bamboo rod, a line of coarse cord, and 
a short length of thick gut armed with a big hook. 
His bait was a piece of cooked meat. He was 
not a communicative mortal. When I asked him 
if there were many fish in the river, he replied, 
*Poco' (Few). 

Further on I met another angler with the same 
primitive tackle and a morsel of meat for a bait. 
* Poco ' was also his formula. Then I noticed 
two rowing-skiffs coming down the stream, on 
either side of it. Presently the men in these 
boats began to haul up a sort of cross-line made 
of thickish rope. The line bristled with big hooks, 

Two Days on the Guadalquivir 71 

and attached to one of them was a shad of about 
a pound. This curious mode of fishing is common 
on the Lower Guadalquivir. It does not seem to 
be highly profitable, for I saw very few shad taken 
by this method. However, the Pescadores spend 
long days in drifting down the river, dragging the 
sunk cross-line behind their skiffs. 

Chance threw us one afternoon into a meeting 
with a young Spaniard, who keeps a little refresh- 
ment-booth on the quay, where the ships for 
England are loaded with iron ore. Jose is his 
name, a dark-haired, olive-skinned fellow, in white 
drill clothes and a cap. He speaks English, and 
so does his handsome younger brother. 

]os6 served us with lemonade, and began to 
chat in our own language. He had been a sailor, 
and had touched several British ports. 

* Good country, England ; much gold !' he said, 
showing his white teeth when he smiled. 

* Fish in the river ?' 

* Yes, some, but more lower down,' replied Jos6. 
'You like to catch them, I go with you in boat 
one day.' 

I closed with the offer, and we arranged to fish 
upon the following Sunday morning, that being 
Josh's holiday. Jos^ promised to provide a boat 

^2 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

and some bait. We were to meet him at his 
pavilion at six o'clock. 

On Sunday we left the hotel for the rendezvous 
with Jos6. I carried two rods and the bag, and 
my wife had the landing-net. We were con- 
spicuous objects for the mirth of those SeviUian 
citizens who were abroad at that early hour. 
Loud guffaws saluted our approach, and a merry 
party in an open carriage gave vent to explosions 
of derisive laughter. What in the name of Santa 
Maria were those mad English people about to 

The morning was heavy, the air moist and still. 
There was a sweet scent of orange-blossom. In 
the brushwood bordering the Guadalquivir hosts 
of nightingales were singing. Jos^ greeted us. 
He could not leave his booth. However, his 
brother was ready to accompany us. No, he had 
not found any worms, but there were plenty in 
the plantation of orange-trees. We poked about 
with a borrowed fork, and found sundry big lob- 
worms. Then Jos^ junior bargained with a 
boatman for the hire of a huge leaky tub, with 
enormous oars. We put off, and rowed down the 
river to some stakes forming a breakwater to protect 
the soft banks of reddish earth. Here young Jos6 

Two Days on the Guadalquivir 73 

moored the tub. I put on a paternoster, with 
three hooks baited with lobs. A rather heavy 
lead was necessary in this strong current. My 
wife tried a float tackle. 

Half an hour passed without a twitch to our 
lines. Young ]os6 entertained us with stories of 
his experiences aboard British ships. An hour 
went by, and still no bites. 

' Big fish here,' remarked ]os6 junior. 

' I wish they would bite,' said I. 

A cloud burst over us. The rain came down 
with a loud patter on the boat. My wife and 
our gilly sought what protection they could find 
against the downpour. 

* Fish no eat ?' asked Jose junior, when the 
rain ceased. 

* No,' I answered. 

*We go other place,' suggested our young 

So we moved down a few hundred yards and 
tried another swim. The nightingales sang louder 
after the shower, and the orange-blossom was 
more odorous. Our lad begged a fifty-yard length 
of water-cord that I had in the bag. 

* I show you how catch fish,' he said. 

He tied on several eyed hooks, baited them, 

74 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

attached a heavy lead to the line, and let it sink 
near some piles. 

* Wait little while, and you see,' observed Jos6 

We waited perhaps an hour. Meanwhile no 
shad attacked our baits. 

* Me see now,' said the boy. 

He pulled in the line. Every hook was bare, 
but there were no shad upon any of them. 

]os6 junior rebaited the hooks and flung in 
the line. The next time he hauled it in some of 
the hooks were again bare. 

* Dam !' said the lad. 

My wife then reminded me that we had not 
eaten much breakfast. It was time to return to 
the hotel. We rowed the clumsy junk back 
against the stream, paid the boatmen and young 
]os6, and left the riverside. Our progress through 
the streets again provoked the sallies and mirth of 
the people. I was not favourably impressed with 
the Sevillian manners. 

' Nada ?' (Nothing ?) said the waiter. 

I shook my head. He smiled and brought our 
soup. No doubt he thought it well that we were 
not dependent upon the spoil of our rods for 

Two Days on the Guadalquivir 75 

George Borrow, who spent some time in Seville, 
indulges in a rhapsody on the beauties of the city 
when viewed from the banks of the Guadalquivir. 
There is, perhaps, a note of exaggeration, an 
artist's overtone, in Sorrow's high-flown diction, 
and the confession that the scene moved him to 
* tears of rapture.' Still, the brown river has its 
charm, even in its course between Seville and the 
transpontine suburb of Triana. Lower down, 
where the banks are thickly grown with bushes, 
the river is more beautiful, but the wide levels on 
either side are of a featureless character, and the 
muddy shores at low -tide do not pleasurably 
attract the eye. 

On the right bank of the Guadalquivir is the 
little town of Coria, which lies among orange 
orchards under a rocky bluff. A small steamboat, 
which starts daily from the Triana Bridge, or 
Puente de Isabel II., makes the journey to Coria 
in about two hours. The boat returns in the 
evening of the same day. Jos6 senior advised 
us to try the fishing at Coria. He said that 
many Sevillians went there on holidays to fish 
with the line. 

We started before the sun was high, on a lovely 
May morning. ]os6 was at the landing-stage. 

^() Fishing and Travel in Spain 

While we were waiting for the boat to start, we 
saw two netsmen haul in a net containing one 
small shad. The sky was a glorious blue, and 
the sun's rays were warm. Although we steamed 
at a fair pace out of Seville, the heat was con- 
siderable in spite of the swift motion through the 
morning air. On, between banks of verdure, the 
little steamboat panted down to the first pier. A 
merchant vessel, making for the port of Seville, 
passed us, and we saw several Pescadores at work 
with their nets. On we steamed upon the broad 
turbid river. 

Jos6 said we could obtain plenty of worms for 
bait at Coria. When we landed at the curious 
little pueblo, which is inhabited almost entirely 
by gipsies, we enlisted the services of a pair of 
bronze-skinned Romany urchins, who were soon 
grubbing for worms in a damp ditch near the 
river. A tribe of children followed us to the 
shore of the Guadalquivir. They stood a few 
yards away while we made our preparations for 
bottom fishing. Then a man came, and began to 
put questions to Jose about us. He was much 
interested in my wife's hat. Such headwear had 
never been seen in Coria, where the working 
women do not even put on a mantilla. 

Two Days on the Guadalquivir "j^ 

I fastened a leger to my running line, and 
baited the hook with a big worm. We fished a 
small bay, between two wooden breakwaters. 
The tide was ebbing, and the muddy verge of the 
river began to show. It was not long before I felt 
a pluck at the line. I struck, but there was no 
fish on the hook. The bait had been gnawed. 
My wife also felt several nibbles at her bait. 
Were we at last amongst a shoal of shad? 
Niggling bites followed in quick succession, but 
when we struck, the lines came back slack. 

Jos6 was of the opinion that little fish were 
playing with our baits. I proposed another pitch, 
and we went into the underwood, and followed a 
grassy path through the scanty but grateful shade. 
This was one of the hottest of days that we ex- 
perienced in Andalusia. The fiery sun scorched 
our faces and hands to soreness of the skin, and 
made my wife feel faint. A glared heat was upon 
the water, and a haze of fire quivered on the 
land. We clambered on to the slippery stakes 
of a breakwater, and threw in our legers. The 
children still formed a retinue. They annoyed Jos6. 
* If you will not go away,' said he, ' I'll hit you 
over the head, and then throw you in the river.* 
The threat had its effect upon the juveniles. 

78 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

They retreated, uttering a few impertinences. 
Presently a man in a seedy uniform, with a sword 
at his side, pushed through the bushes and con- 
versed with ]os6. Our gilly explained that the 
man was a river-keeper on the watch for smugglers 
and other offenders. 

Where were the shad ? Not a nibble rewarded 
our patient endurance of the fierce heat. My 
wife retired to the shade. Jose reclined with his 
head under a bush. At last I felt a tug, then 
another, and another. I struck with force, and 
felt a responsive jerk. The fish began boring, 
and I gave him line. Then he made for the 
piles, and I had to check him. I called to Jose 
for the landing-net. In a second his head was 
out of the bush, and he came at a perilous run 
along the beams of the slimy breakwater. 

* I get him !' he cried, hanging head down- 
wards and brandishing the net. 

* Quietly, quietly !' I said, reeling in the line. 

I saw a swirl on the water. Jose made a wild 
plunge with the net, swore in English, and missed 
the fish. 

' Now, then !' I said, as something silvery 
showed near the surface. 

This time Jose made better aim and netted the 

Two Days on the Guadalquivir 79 

fish. In doing so, he nearly took a header into the 
muddy water. It was an eel, a wriggling, slimy 
beast of about 2 pounds. Fortunately, he had 
not gorged the hook. We soon freed him, and 
put on a fresh bait. My wife faced the heat 
again, and went on to another breakwater. 

' You catch more now,' said the sanguine Jose. 

I soon felt another twitch at the line. Was it 
a shad this time ? I could not say, for I missed 
the fish. 

A boy came down the river in a rowing-boat. 
He sang a loud, monotonous air, with a sort of 
prolonged guttural trill. It was quaint, if not 

Jose laughed contemptuously. 

* Spanish singing,' he remarked. * No good !' 

This fishing in the Guadalquivir was certainly a 
new experience. The sport was undoubtedly in- 
different ; but we enjoyed the afternoon, in spite of 
the hot sun. Only small eels came to hand after 
the first capture. As for the shad, they stubbornly 
refused our dainties in the way of cold meat and 
lobworms. We reeled up at about five o'clock, 
and Jose and I smoked our cigarettes under the 
bushes, while my wife photographed a bright, pic- 
turesque family group of Andalusians, who were 

8o Fishing and Travel in Spain 

picking up sticks for fire-lighting. They were 
delighted to stand for their portraits. 

In the cool of the evening we returned in the 
steamboat to Seville. The setting sun gave a 
golden tone to the tawny river. Nightingales 
warbled from the banks. At one of the wooden piers 
an Englishman and his wife came aboard. There 
was no mistaking the gentleman's nationality. 
He unfolded that eminently insular sheet, the 
Daily Mail, and pored over it till we came in 
sight of the Golden Tower. 

I gave the eel to Jos6. It was already half 
baked by the sun, and looked like one of those 
dried fish that one sees in the foreign comestible 
shops in Soho. As we crossed the quay, an officer 
with a sword pounced upon us, and demanded 
an inspection of the fishing-bag. I opened it, 
displaying the tackle. He bowed, and flourished 
his arm. There was nothing dangerous nor 
dutiable in the tan haversack. We were neither 
Anarchists nor contrabandists. Pursued by the 
giggles of senoritas out for their evening parade, 
we walked to the Fonda de la Victoria in the 
Plaza de San Fernando. 

' Hambre ' (Hunger), I said to the obliging head- 

Two Days on the Guadalquivir 8i 

' Oil right,' he answered, uttering the only 
English words that he knew, and hurrying with 
the plates. 

After dinner we confessed to a Spanish gentle- 
man, who was in the lounge of the vestibule, that 
we felt tired. 

' Tired !' he said in Spanish, with a laugh. 
* Tired — impossible ! English people are never 



Does the Guadalquivir contain no other fish save 
shad and swarms of eels ? Surely there must be 
plenty of fish in those long, unfrequented reaches 
of swirling, umber- coloured water between Cordova 
and Seville. I looked from the window of the 
railway-carriage upon the Moorish Wad-al-Kebir, 
and the Baetis of the Romans, that curious, muddy, 
Oriental-looking river winding, sometimes slowly, 
between banks of yellow soil, or washing pebbly 
shores as it spread itself over the shallows with a 
swifter flow. One would not have experienced 
great surprise at the spectacle of a crocodile 
sunning itself on one of those beaches. The cold, 
sad cactus showed here and there on the banks. 
And at the approach of the rumbling train storks 
took wing slowly from the lonely pools. 

On either side spread the olive-groves up to the 
rocky spurs of the wild sierras. The rail-track 


From Andalusia to Castile 83 

was gay for miles with myriads of scarlet poppies. 
We were going to Castile, land of wide plains, 
desolate mountains, and forests of ilex. The 
region of Andalusia, with its perennial sunshine, 
orange-gardens, and waving fields of wheat, was 
behind us before twilight, and the cooler air of 
the gray-green, shadeless plains blew through the 
windows of the carriage. Upon these great flats 
herds of fighting bulls stood out distinctly in the 
fading light. The beasts grazed contentedly; 
the herdsman, with his striped shawl upon the 
shoulders and a conical felt hat upon his head, 
listlessly watched the passing train. We were 
in Don Quixote's country — sun-burned, wind- 
searched La Mancha. 

I shall not here describe wonderful Toledo, with 
its ancient walls, noble cathedral, and alleys of 
sombre houses, where one looks for romance and 
adventure at every turn. We laid our rods aside 
at Toledo. There are fish in the Tagus, or Rio 
Tajo, that flows deep down in a rocky ravine 
below the city. I saw nets, and I noticed men 
with fishing-rods perched on the rocks. The 
river is turbid, like the Guadalquivir. Below the 
city it spreads out, and curves through a scorched 
plain dotted with a few trees. 

6 — z 

84 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

An Englishman at our boarding-house could give 
me very little information about the fish in the 
Tagus. He knew that there were fish in the river; 
they were big and edible, and he had tasted them. 
Perhaps they are shad. We were not very keen 
upon another essay of paternostering for shad. 

It was May when we arrived in Avila. This 
weird and fascinating town is nearly 4,000 feet 
above the sea-level, on the slope of a rocky upland. 
We reached Avila at midnight, and the air was 
frosty. The cold pierced us after the semi- 
tropical warmth of the South. We shivered in 
the long stone corridors of the hotel, which sug- 
gested a Castilian palace, whence the glory of old 
days had long departed. How keen blew the 
north-easter across the plain from the sierras ! 
Even when the sun was high, and the great green 
lizards, longer than one's arm, crept out to bask, 
there were teeth in the breeze that whistled among 
the rocks of this exposed tableland. 

The little Adaja glides in a silvery streak through 
the only strip of fresh green which can be seen 
from the ancient walls of the town. We found 
our way to the river. It was clear, on a sand and 
gravel bed, with weeds here and there, and sharps 
that looked like the haunts of trout. Such a swift, 

From Andalusia to Castile 85 

clean little stream ought to produce fish of the 
Salmo family. One afternoon I left the hotel with 
my fly-rod. No one was abroad. It was the time 
of siesta. I made my way to the glittering river, 
and arranged my tackle, putting on a fine cast 
and one little hackle fly. Scour after scour was 
carefully cast over, and every likely corner tried. 
I had no rises, and saw not a sign of a fish. The 
river was perfect ; only the fish were wanting. 

Presently I came to a mill and an overflow. It 
was a pleasant spot for a lounge. I filled my pipe, 
and reclined on a sward, watching the racing 
stream, the goats that nibbled the herbage, the 
woman washing linen, and the distant walls and 
towers of the marvellously beautiful town. Then 
I fell asleep. So passed the first and only day of 
attempted fishing at Avila. 

There are no trout in this part of the Adaja. 
If you want plenty of trout and cheap quarters in 
a wild, mountainous district, inquire of the land- 
lord of the Fonda del Ingles, who will give you 
particulars about the coach journey and the 
accommodation. I met two Castilian fishermen 
on the Adaja. One was a postman. He brought 
letters to the fonda, and I gave him an English 
roach float. His own float, like the rest of his 

S6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

tackle, was rude, and highly insulting to any self- 
respecting fish. 

I accompanied these Pescadores one afternoon. 
They were dignified, courtly Castilians, with a 
fellow-feeling for a brother of the rod. I did not 
trouble to bring my own tackle, for the dace of 
the Adaja average about ten to the pound, and do 
not appear to abound. Yet these anglers were 
extremely keen. They tramped miles to and from 
their swims, and seemed well pleased if they 
returned with three or four brace of these diminu- 
tive dace. Their bait-box was a curious entomo- 
logical surprise packet — an olla-podrida. It con- 
tained worms, grubs, caterpillars, beetles, and 
live flies. They fished the little eddies near the 
banks, where the water was about 2 feet in the 
deepest part. One of them had a cotton-reel on 
a nail for a winch, and his line was thick enough 
to tow a punt. The gut was * medium salmon,' 
and the floats fashioned out of goose-quill and 

Honest anglers ! I respect them. They fished 
for a love of the sport, and not for the larder. 
Who could dream of the larder when the basket 
never contained anything but a few fish of medium 
sardine size? No, they were true fishermen: 

From Andalusia to Castile ^7 

patient, observant, fond of the open air and the 
riverside. They deserved a better stream for the 
pursuit of their simple and wholesome recreation. 
I can see them now. One was a stout man in a 
frogged coat, with fur collar and cuffs, and a 
sombrero. The postman was tall and thin, with 
a sober, olive-tinted countenance. We soon be- 
came amigos. I felt flattered. It is a great 
credit to one to be accepted as the friend of a 
native of Old Castile. 

Everyone in Avila has an air of romance. 
Remember that this is a town of Old Castile, 
where Romans conquered, Moors came into posses- 
sion, and Christians finally prevailed. 

It is the birthplace of the remarkable Santa 
Teresa. The very beggars are proud Castilians 
in their mien. I often dream of Avila. It is a 
wonderful place. But you need not unpack 
your fishing-tackle until you reach the mountain 
streams beyond the valley of the Adaja. 



After several weeks spent in sight-seeing in the 
towns, we continued our peregrination northwards 
to the district that may be described as the 
Scotland of Spain. We left the dry heat of the 
central plains for the mists, rain-showers, and 
cooler atmosphere of the wild and beautiful 
kingdom of Leon. The chief province of the 
kingdom bears the same name, and in it is the 
ancient city also called Leon. In the north-east 
this province juts to that of Santander, and on the 
east it is bordered by Palencia, while to the north 
lies the kingdom of Asturias, oddly misnamed * the 
Asturias ' by some English writers. 

Leon is mountainous on the west and north. 
From the capital southwards and eastwards the 
country is of a fairly level character, watered by 
the Orbigo, the Esla, and numerous minor 
streams. Most of the rivers of the mountain 


Streams in Lc6n 89 

districts contain trout, and there are some lakes 
at a high altitude which abound with heavy fish. 
These lagunas are not easy of access. They are 
far up among the peaks, but some of them can be 
approached by pack-mules. It is necessary to 
carry a camping outfit, for there are no habita- 
tions near to the tarns providing accommodation 
for the stranger. I have met one angler who has 
spent a pleasant time in these solitudes, where 
days pass without the sound of a human voice. 
Bears still range almost unmolested upon these 
sierras, and wolves and wild-cats are by no means 
scarce. In severe winters wolves have been 
known to range almost to the gates of the city of 
Le6n. The best time for fishing in the lakes 
of Northern Spain is from June to August, when 
the snow has melted upon the lower slopes. Snow 
crowns all the higher summits throughout the 

We crossed the Douro, and by a slow and 
tedious railway -journey travelled to the north- 
eastern corner of Leon. Lofty mountains are 
reared in savage peaks and ridges above the rocky 
slopes of the river valleys in this remote territory. 
The Penas de Europa rise to a height of nearly 
9,000 feet, and the Pena Espiguete and the Prieta 

90 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

are almost as high. These peaks are only rivalled 
in loftiness among the Spanish mountains by two 
or three summits in the Pyrenees. 

Most of the rivers of the well-watered kingdom 
of Leon flow in a southerly direction, and join 
the wide Douro. A typical Leonese river is the 
tributary that rises in the Asturian Mountains and 
waters a narrow hill valley down to the little town 
of Bonar, on the railway from Bilbao to the city 
of Leon. The journey from Bilbao is slow but 
highly interesting, as the train makes many 
curving ascents, and runs along the slopes of wild 
mountains, across gorges, and through charming 
glens. We came to Bonar, by way of Leon, on 
a day of great heat. Upon our arrival a polite 
native of the town offered to escort us to the 
hotel. Leaving our baggage to be brought on in 
a cart, we accompanied the stranger, who proved 
to be the landlord of the principal inn. He gave 
us such a good account of the trout-fishing in the 
neighbourhood that we were inclined to suspect 
him of drawing the long-bow. 

While dinner was being prepared the sky 
darkened, and there were distant growls of 
thunder. I went out to look at the river, which 
was rather low and extremely clear. In a shallow 

Streams in Leon 91 

pool below the bridge I noticed several trout 
rising, and wished that I had brought my rod with 
me. A number of flies were sporting over the water, 
and in spite of the thundery weather the fish were 
feeding hungrily. In ten minutes I saw at least 
thirty rises in this single pool. 

My observations were interrupted by a sudden 
downfall of rain. A cloud had drooped to the 
hill-tops on either side of a fine gorge, and overhead 
the purple pall was riven with a streak of forked 
lightning, followed by an alarming crash of 
thunder. I retreated hurriedly for the inn. When 
I reached the plaza the rain was running in 
rivulets through the street, and the violence of the 
storm had increased. During such tempests as 
this the village priests of this district sometimes 
ascend the towers of the churches and pray to 
Santa Barbara to still the thunder and to stay the 
disastrous lightning strokes. 

As we dined upon the usual omelettes, steak, 
cheese, and oranges, the rain pelted down, flood- 
ing the road 2 inches deep, and filling the 
brook with foaming, turbid water. In the morn- 
ing the heat had returned. At eight o'clock 
the sun was shining fiercely, and the sky was 

92 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Was there any hope of sport with the fly upon 
such a brilliant day ? I remembered those rises 
in the pool by the bridge. The river seemed full 
of trout, and I longed to try my skill with them. 
We held council, and decided to go fishing. A 
chico was soon found to act as our gilly. He was 
a bright lad of about fourteen, in a boina, a 
canvas blouse, and canvas shoes braided with blue 
worsted. We gave him the wading-stockings and 
brogues, and he led the way with an air of 
importance, with his chin well up, exhibiting 
pride in the performance of a new and mysterious 

Our hostess had given us a luncheon of hard- 
boiled eggs, meat, bread and cheese, and the usual 
pint of wine. We attracted but little notice in 
the street. At the riverside our chico surveyed us 
with solemn curiosity as we put on our wading- 
stockings and made ready our tackle. Two old 
men stared at us from the bridge. 

At the first sight of the river I realized that 
fishing was almost hopeless. The storm had 
brought down a flood from the mountains. The 
slow pool, where I had seen the trout rising on the 
previous evening, was like a rapid, and the water 
was a dark yellow colour. We began to spin 

Streams in Leon 93 

Devon minnows in the eddies close to the bank, 
and fished upstream till we came into the gorge. 
Neither of us touched a trout. Then we tried the 
worm on Stewart tackle, and finally, towards 
evening, when the water had cleared somewhat, 
we put on our fly casts. One diminutive fish of 
the boga variety rewarded our steady perseverance. 
I shall have more to say of bogas anon. They are 
a kind of dace. 

The chico shouldered our traps, and strode off 
to the town. He apparently experienced a con- 
tempt for us, and for our foreign notions of 
fishing. But he gratefully acknowledged his silver 
coin, and went off triumphantly with the remains 
of the luncheon. The landlord was sympathetic. 
* Dios ! how could one expect to catch fish with 
the river in such flood ? But patience ! to-morrow 
we would be well rewarded.' In the clubroom 
adjoining the inn I was subjected to a close 
questioning after dinner. Why had I come to 
this out-of-the-way corner of Spain ? Was I 
prospecting for mines, like all the English ? Did 
I sell my fish ? If not, why did I spend so many 
hours in fishing ? Did the water penetrate those 
things I wore on my legs ? etc. A gentleman who 
was staying in this mountain retreat for his 

94 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

health advised me to use the worm, and shook his 
head at my flies. All the Pescadores of this part 
used the worm. A priest who was among the 
company expressed the hope that I was a good 
Catholic, and asked me many quaint questions 
about England. 

After dinner we went for a ramble up a rough 
lane leading to the mountains. Thunder was 
again brewing. The clouds were purple, edged 
with copper, and the air heavy and oppressive. It 
was the worst kind of weather for fishing. 
Presently a few big drops of rain fell ; then 
thunder rumbled in the distance. Before we 
reached the fonda forked green lightning was 
darting in the clouds that lowered upon the 
mountain-peaks. It was a grand sight. But the 
disturbed condition of the atmosphere boded ill 
for sport with the rod. 

On the morrow the river was in better order. 
The weather was still bright, and the heat almost 
too great for fishing during the hours between 
10 a.m. and 5 p.m. I saw plently of trout rising, 
but my flies would not tempt many of them. 
Better fortune awaited us in the evening. A 
fresh breeze sprang up at sunset, and the sky 
grew cloudy. The fish began to feed with a 

Streams in Ledn 95 

furious hunger. A shallow which had seemed 
deserted by trout in the early part of the day 
was now ringed all over with rises. Every cast 
brought a tug at the flies, and though the trout 
were as nimble in dropping the fly as they were in 
seizing it, we had an exciting time until darkness 
set in. The length of the stream close to the 
town at Bonar appeared swarming with trout that 
evening. I did not see a better rise after sunset 
on any other Spanish river. 

We kept a lookout for nets, horseshoe traps, 
and other indications of fishing, at Bonar, but saw 
nothing that would lead one to suppose that the 
trout are thinned out by these means. There is a 
professional fisherman in the little pueblo, who 
appears to make a living by catching trout with 
the rod and line. He is a bottom fisher, like the 
majority of those who fish to sell. 

A more charmingly varied trout-stream than 
this at Bonar would be difficult to find. The 
banks are mostly open near the town, and runs 
alternate with gliding stretches of deeper water. 
Were I arranging a fishing tour in Spain, I would 
certainly revisit this picturesque valley in Le6n. 
The lodging at the fonda is not luxurious, but 
the place is clean and the landlord obliging. 

96 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Fishing may be varied with mountain climbs 
and the exploration of the surrounding wild 

The trout that we caught were none of them 
over J pound apiece, and I should think that 
the average weight is less than that. Still, 
quantity makes up for weight when trout are 
strong, and there is no question that the trout 
at Boiiar give capital sport for their size. In the 
gorge, especially high up, there are pools holding 
much bigger trout. I was advised to fish this part 
of the river, and to hire a vehicle to take me 
about five miles upstream, where the trout are 
said to be still more plentiful. Unfortunately, 
after our evening's sport another thunderstorm 
broke over the mountains, and a deluge of rain 
again flooded the river. We were sorry that our 
engagements would not allow us to stay at Bonar 
till the stream fined down again. The river was 
so well stocked that we would have no doubt 
repeated the success of that evening. But as 
it was still raining when we awoke the next morn- 
ing, and the river was rising, we resolved to start 
for Bilbao. 

The chico's mother, a handsome woman in 
picturesque dress and wooden shoes, came to 

Streams in Leon 97 

the railway-station to bid us farewell. She was 
much interested in the queer English people 
who went fishing for amusement. A group of 
peasant women joined her, and we departed 
amid the farewells of these friendly, honest Leon 

Bonar is en route for the Sil and the other rivers 
of the North-west of Spain, which I shall describe 
in other chapters. It should not be missed by 
the angler. The river is an ideal one for fly 
fishing, and there are plenty of fish in it. For 
this stream, as for other waters in Spain, the 
flies should be fairly large. I killed most trout 
on sober-coloured flies, such as the olive dun. 
Let the fisherman take a good stock of flies 
with him, as most of the flies procurable in Spain 
are of French manufacture, and badly tied. 
Madrid and Bilbao were the only towns where I 
found fishing-tackle shops. I was often questioned 
as to the prices of English rods and tackle and 
asked for the addresses of makers. 



Most fishermen are more or less naturalists. 
Those who do not observe the wild life of the 
riverside miss one of the chief pleasures accompany- 
ing the sport of angling. Moreover, the observant 
fisherman, the one who has trained his eyes to see 
and his brain to retain impressions, is usually the 
most successful wielder of the fly-rod. * How do 
the blackbird and thrassel with their melodious 
voices bid welcome to the cheerful Spring,' writes 
Izaak Walton, * and in their fixed months warble 
forth such ditties as no art or instrument can 
reach to !' 

We began our fishing itinerary just as the buds 
were opening and the birds beginning to sing. It 
was a new pleasure to watch the birds of a strange 
country, and to hear their voices in the tender 
green of the woods. For the first time we listened 
to the melodious, haunting piping of the golden 


The Wild Life of Spain 99 

oriole, a rare visitant in England, and watched 
the brilliant bird flit from tree to tree as he called 
to his mate. I noted down the date of the first 
flight of swallows, and I find that we saw these 
migrants on March 29, by the Ason. 

Along the Bidasoa I noticed the familiar 
common wagtails, wrens, robins, thrushes, and 
chaffinches. Hawks of several kinds abound in 
the mountainous parts of Spain. Buzzards, 
circling in companies, were often to be seen high 
over the rocky summits of the Cantabrian Range 
and along the wooded lower slopes of the Pyrenees. 
On March 13 lizards came out in large numbers to 
sun themselves. We often heard the cry of the 
owl at twilight, especially in Portugal. 

The North of Spain abounds with bird-life. In 
Castile the foolish destruction of the trees has 
almost banished the birds. The farmers cut down 
the timber because trees harbour birds, and 
birds eat seeds. Around Madrid the State, realiz- 
ing the folly of denuding the exposed and wind- 
swept land of all foliage, has made many big 
plantations. In the north there are mighty forests 
of pine and chestnut, haunted by many kinds of 
birds. Quails and partridges are fairly numerous 
in some districts. We saw a number of partridges 


loo Fishing and Travel in Spain 

around Toledo, and here only were hares at all 

The marismas, or marshes, of the tidal Guadal- 
quivir teem with all kinds of wild-fowl. Snipe are 
fairly plentiful on the flats by the Minho estuary 
in Portugal. We saw many storks. One had made 
her nest, which had young birds in it, on the top of 
a church-tower at Avila. Storks may often be seen 
sailing high over the city of Seville, and there is a 
colony of small brown hawks upon the roof of the 

The swamps and ponds in the neighbourhood of 
rivers swarm with bright green frogs. They are 
larger than our English frogs, and they pass most 
of their time in the water. On a still night you 
may hear their peculiar croaking a mile away. It 
is a monotonous and constant rumble, and one can 
scarcely believe that the sound is emitted by frogs. 
The legs of these green frogs are a table delicacy 
in parts of Spain. They are cooked in batter, 
and form a course at some of the fondas. Quite 
unwittingly we ate these dainties at one of the 
comidas (dinners) in Le6n. We were a little 
puzzled at the dish. The tender legs were like 
those of birds, starlings or wheatears, and it was 
not until we had eaten them that we learned that 

The Wild Life of Spaizi\L ;:io>; • ;\? 

we had tasted frog! Perhaps in this case * 'tis 
folly to be wise!' 

We had not the fortune to encounter any of the 
larger fauna of Spain, though we were often near 
the haunts of boars, wolves, and deer. At one 
hamlet on the Rio Sil, I was offered the loan of 
a gun to go in quest of a hind and her calf that 
had been seen once or twice in a neighbouring 
vineyard. I am not a deer-stalker, and if I were I 
would certainly not choose to murder a female 
deer and her young in June. 

That fine wild creature the ibex still ranges the 
peaks amid the eternal snows. Interesting accounts 
of adventures in pursuit of Spanish ibex will 
be found in Messrs. Chapman and Buck's * Wild 
Spain,' and in Lord Walsingham's contribution to 
the volume on * English Sport.' Boars are hunted 
with hounds in the South of Spain, and in the 
neighbourhood of Gibraltar Senor Larios and his 
friends pursue the fox in the British style. Foxes 
are very plentiful in the wild parts of the country, 
and the wild-cat is far from scarce. The marten is 
also found. 

The otter is fairly distributed, and is rarely 
molested in the Peninsula. I have never heard of 
otter-hunting with hounds in Spain. The sport 

IQ3 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

has been introduced into France. There are 
rivers in Spain and Portugal that would provide 
splendid otter - hunting from February until 

An intelligent farmer from Asturias, v^hom v^e 
met on a coach ride in Leon, said that bears 
v^ere still fairly common in the mountains of his 
part of the country. A friend of his had shot one 
during that year. I was told that bears haunt the 
mountains near Reinosa. 

I saw no snakes in Spain except vipers. These 
were very common along the rocky banks of the 
Rio Sil above Orense. You could scarcely walk 20 
yards without seeing one or two of these hand- 
some, venomous animals. At first I made a 
circuit of a few yards to avoid these viper-haunted 
spots, but in a few days I grew accustomed to 
vipers, and occasionally trod on one of the reptiles 
by design or accident. Our gilly shunned them 
as ' muy malo ' (very bad). 

As for the fish, I shall write of them as we 
proceed. Two species, the boga and a bigger, chub- 
like fish, were quite new to me. The shad of the 
Minho also interested us. I have not read any 
modern Spanish work on ichthyology. Walton 
speaks of *an ingenious Spaniard,' one John (or 

The Wild Life of Spain 103 

Juan) Valdesso, whose * Hundred and Ten Con- 
siderations ' were translated into English in 1638. 
Valdesso remarks that * Rivers and the inhabitants 
of the watery elements were made for wise men to 
contemplate, and fools to pass by without considera- 
tion.' Who was this Valdesso ? And are his 
'Considerations' always upon beasts, birds, and 
fishes, or upon matters in general ? I cannot find 
his name in the admirable * Bibliotheca Piscatoria,' 
1883 edition, though other Spanish names are 
given in the volume. 

Among the trees of the country we saw the palms 
of Andalusia, which were probably introduced by 
the Moors. The ilex abounds in the forests between 
Avila and Madrid. Chestnuts clothe the slopes 
of many of the rivers, and afford pleasant shade 
from the scorching noonday sunshine. The 
orange, olive, myrtle, and almond, flourish almost 

In Navarre the woods resembled those of 
our country. There we saw primroses and 
daffodils, the former in profusion along the 
Bidasoa. We were not fortunate enough to come 
into the habitat of the Spanish iris, which is 
exported in such large quantities to England. In 
Castile we passed through thousands of acres of 

I04 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

wild-lavender. These great patches of purple give 
beauty to the plains, and the odour of the flower 
fills the air. A species of heath grows to the 
height of 4 or 5 feet in some parts of Spain and 
Portugal, and forms impenetrable jungles. In 
Portugal we could not walk by some of the rivers 
without treading upon the beautiful osmunda fern. 
It is as common as our English bracken in many 
parts of the Peninsula ; in fact, when we wanted 
ferns to cover our fish from the sun we were 
obliged to use the osmunda, for there was often no 
choice between that and any other. We noted 
many varieties of ferns throughout the North of 

The ornithologist and botanist will find a fertile 
field of observation in Spain. In the semi-tropical 
area of the South many interesting species of birds 
frequent the river marshes and the forests, while 
the sterner North affords the study of other 
varieties, both familiar and scarce. Amid the 
luxuriant vegetation of Portugal, and upon the 
plains and mountains of Spain, the student of 
plants will discover innumerable kinds of curious 
flowers, ferns, and mosses. 



At times we had to endure some amount of dis- 
comfort. One of our trials was hunger. In most 
of the fondas of the Basque Provinces, and in the 
towns, we had very fair board, but in Leon our 
diet was sometimes Hmited to eggs, leathery, lean, 
and tasteless beef, hard, stale bread, and thin wine. 
There is not sufficient sustenance, for those leading 
an active outdoor life, in white bread, without 
butter, and omelettes or boiled eggs. We some- 
times longed for a good, plain substantial English 
dinner of joint, vegetables, and pudding. The 
Spaniard's breakfast consists of a cup of chocolate, 
or coffee, and a piece of dry bread. One cannot 
start for a day's fishing on such a slender repast. 
At most of the inns we bargained for eggs with 
our breakfast. 

One misses butter, farinaceous food, and vege- 
tables in Spain. Strange as it may seem, in this 

io6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

fertile land table vegetables are not abundant. 1 
never saw a cooked cabbage, a dish of green peas 
or beans, carrots, or turnips, on a Spanish table. 
Here and there we could obtain salad, and some- 
times globe artichokes. Some of the dishes reeked 
of garlic, others of malodorous oil. A crust of 
decent bread and a piece of Cheddar cheese would 
have been a luxury. The bread was too white to 
be nourishing, and the cream cheese was sour. 
Sometimes we fared really well, but now and then 
we had a week of very indifferent and inadequate 
meals. Once or twice my wife had to smoke 
cigarettes to stay the sense of keen hunger by the 

A gentleman in Wales wrote to inquire whether 
he could take his daughter on a fishing tour in 
Spain. Was it a suitable country for ladies ? I 
flinch at such a question. So much depends on 
the ladies. For the sake of travel, experience, 
and sport, some women will endure extreme dis- 
comfort with fortitude. A woman who cannot 
bear changes in climate, long rail way -journeys, 
cramped travelling in coaches, fasting, midge- 
bites, rough quarters, and social intercourse with 
labourers and muleteers, will not enjoy a fishing 
excursion in the wilder parts of Spain. Dainty 

Our Home in the Gorge 107 

and fastidious lady anglers may be advised to stay 
at a first-class hotel in Scotland, where there are 
warm baths, lifts, downy beds, a good table, and 
refined company, and to avoid the rough inns and 
the hardships attending an unconventional tour in 
Spain and Portugal. 

On the other hand, women who are not bound 
hand and foot and soul itself, as some are, by a 
hundred conventions, precedents, traditions, and 
prejudices, and who possess fair health, will gain 
pleasure and knowledge of the world by a journey 
through the remote districts of the Peninsula. 
They will find that Spanish bed-linen rivals our 
own in cleanliness and whiteness. Let me give 
them a word of advice. If tea is essential to their 
comfort, as tobacco is to mine, let them take a 
spirit-stove in their bags. Horniman's tea in tins 
can be obtained in most of the Spanish towns. 
So even that direful institution, afternoon tea, is 
not impossible in the rudest parts of Spain. 

A few miles above the town of Orense, on the 
railway, is the grand gorge where the river Sil 
joins the Minho. A third stream from the moun- 
tains of Galicia flows into the Sil at this point, and 
at the junction of the three waters is the remote 
village of Los Pearas, where the natives depend 

io8 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

chiefly for a livelihood upon their vines and 
chestnut-trees. We arrived at the station of Los 
Pearas late at night. Inquiry for a casa de 
huespedes (house of hospitality) brought us a 
guide, who lit a lamp, shouldered our bags and 
tackle, and conducted us along the railroad and 
across a crazy footbridge to a cluster of houses. 
Our porter knocked at the door of one of the 
houses, and a woman's voice was heard within. 
' They cannot take you in,' said our guide. There- 
upon we held a conference. Was there another 
house for strangers ? It was nearly midnight, and 
we were tired and hungry. The prospect was 
somewhat dispiriting. Should we be forced to 
spend the night on the mountainside ? 

But just as we were turning away the door was 
opened, and we heard a man's voice. To our 
great surprise, he spoke in perfect English. 
* Come in,' he said. * They will put you up. I 
had no idea you were English.' We entered a 
quaint apartment, half kitchen and half village 
shop, and were very cordially received by the 
worthy host and hostess. The Englishman was 
a boarder in the house, a sportsman and keen 
angler, who spends the greater part of the year in 
this mountain retreat. We congratulated ourselves 

Our Home in the Gorge 109 

upon our good fortune, and in a short time we 
were sitting to supper at the table of the hostess, 
and Hstening to the English angler's report upon 
the river. He held out no promise of brilliant 
sport with the fly, but he spoke of * twenty-pound 
baskets of trout ' made by spinning the natural 
bait. It was morning before we retired to our 
little bedroom, for the chance of talking with an 
English sportsman was not an event of everyday 
occurrence. Mr. L. had fished the Sil during 
several seasons, and he knew every pool for a 
dozen miles up the river. His reputation as a 
fisherman was the talk of the natives, and many 
dishes of trout were given by him to figure upon 
the table at local fiestas. 

We lay down to sleep lulled by the cry of the 
wild foaming river. It was a queer little room, 
clean, but not sumptuous. The morning was 
chilly, but gloriously bright. Martins were hawk- 
ing by the window of our room. A scent of coffee 
mounted the staircase, and we heard Mr. L. 
whistling as he dressed. 

We had breakfast the next day on a big balcony 
overhanging the turbulent river. At ten o'clock 
Mr. L. proposed that we should try the fly until 
luncheon-time. He took us to some likely- 

no Fishing and Travel in Spain 

looking water, which we fished for an hour with- 
out rising a fish. In the afternoon we obtained 
some bogas for bait, and spun with them. Luck 
was, however, against us during our visit to 
Los Pearas. 

I will relate some of the experiences of our 
English friend, whose skill in spinning from the 
Nottingham reel, and knowledge of the where- 
abouts of big fish, insure him excellent sport in the 
deep, rough pools of this wild river. Mr. L. often 
catches from three to four trout in a day, occasion- 
ally weighing together about 20 pounds. He has 
caught fish in the Sil up to 10 pounds, and he has 
seen a trout weighing as much as 30 pounds, 
which was killed by a peasant with a digging-fork 
in the shallow water of a tributary. There is no 
doubt that there are trout of huge proportions in 
these great pools of the Minho and Sil at Los 
Pearas. The local anglers, who have learned to 
work a spinning boga, after a fashion, occasionally 
lose very big fish. My friend uses a stiffish spin- 
ning rod, a salmon-line, a strong flight, with 
swivels, and for bait a boga of about 4 inches. 
He casts from a wooden reel without a check, and 
spins off the tail of the broken water where it 
tumbles into a pool. 


Our Home in the Gorge m 

These Sil trout fight Hke salmon. They tear 
the line off the reel, leap repeatedly, and some- 
times sulk. A long reel-line is necessary, and the 
tackle must be as strong as that used for ferox in 
Scotland. The trout are beautifully shaped and 
coloured. They can rarely be tempted by spinning 
artificial baits. The boga appears to be their 
staple food, and they will not take a fly. I caught 
a few small trout with the fly in the tributary, but 
I could not rise a fish, except bogas, in the main 

I asked Senor Sastre, our host, if he had ever 
seen any English anglers on the river besides 
Mr. L. and ourselves. 

* Yes, many years ago,' he said, *two English 
gentlemen came, and set up a tent across the 
river there.' 

The senor was an important man in these parts. 
He kept the only tienda, a general store where 
one might buy anything — from a dozen eggs to a 
pair of boots. His wife was young, gentle, and 
amiable, with a refined, sensitive face. She was 
a perfect hostess. We fared excellently. Good 
roasted joints decked the table ; the fowls were 
tender, and the wine of the district bright and 
free from logwood. We had most of our meals on 

112 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

the big balcony, with the cool air blowing upon us 
from the mountains. The children romped around 
— little girls with olive skins and dark hair. My 
wife soon won their confidence. It was an ideal 
Spanish country home. 



One hot afternoon I went up the little stream 
that flows down to the Sil through a deep and 
delightful glen. The chico of the house accom- 
panied me. Mr. L. was entertaining some Spanish 
visitors, including two of the Guardia Civil, who 
had come to look for certain highway robbers who 
were causing terror among the natives of the 
hamlet in the gorge. We followed a track up the 
glen, among vineyards. The grapes were small, 
and in green clusters on the riotous vines. Below 
us the burn murmured in its rocky channel, and 
above were wild hills devoid of foliage. 

The chico talked in Spanish. He thought I 
would understand him better if he raised his voice, 
so when I was at a loss to catch his meaning he 
shouted the phrase in a louder tone. I gathered 
that the little river had been badly poached. My 
companion pointed to a herb growing by the 
113 8 

114 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

waterside. It resembled our wild hemlock, and 
had yellowish leaves and flowers. A few handfuls 
of these poisonous leaves, bruised and thrown 
into a small pool, will bring all the trout to the 
top, gasping for breath. The action of this plant 
upon fish seems as fatal as that of lime. I uttered 
a malediction upon the herb and those who use it 
for the wholesale murder of trout. 

The glen was even wilder and more beautiful 
as we proceeded. No trace of a path was to be 
seen. We scrambled over rocks and through 
undergrowth, and came to a scour that looked 
tempting for a trial of the fly. I fished upstream, 
casting as well as I could among the rocks, and 
trying to avoid the overhanging boughs. Not a 
fish rose to my fly. The sun's rays penetrated 
the boscage, and the rocks of the stream were 
burning hot. It was too bright for fly fishing, 
and, moreover, I doubted whether the poachers 
had left a single fish in the burn. 

I sat down and smoked a pipe, while the chico 
reclined on the grass. The beauty of the little 
ravine cannot be described. It was a veritable 
fairyland. Masses of boulders rose in chaos from 
the verge of the stream ; the wooded slopes were 
impenetrable, and there was a long strip of deep 

In the Kingdom of Galicia 115 

blue sky above two high cHffs that seemed to bar 
the passage of the burn. From below the gray 
cliffs came the rumble of falling water. 

I wandered on in this enchanted glen, and 
came to the cliffs. The stream rushed in a white 
torrent between the banks, and fell into a clear 
pool. * Surely there must be trout here,' was my 
reflection. I took off the fly cast, and put on a 
small gilt Devon minnow. At the very first spin 
there was a yellow flash in the water, as a trout 
darted out from beneath a flat, sunken rock. He 
hovered, saw me, and shot back to his holt. * At 
any rate, I have seen one trout,' I said. 

The chico joined me, and watched my operations 
with interest. Presently I was actually fast in a 
trout. My rod was bending to the plunges of a 
fish, and I saw my prey as he rushed up the pool. 
I turned his head, and netted him as he came 
down. This was the only trout that I caught 
during about two hours of careful spinning — a fish 
of less than | pound. 

We returned on the other side of the stream, 
and before I went indoors I made a few casts 
with the fly over a dammed-up pool near the house. 
Here I hooked a few small bogas and rose one 


ii6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

The next day Mr. L. started for a village several 
miles away over the mountains. The priest of the 
aldea had invited him to attend a fiesta. We 
were sorry to lose his company. His man started 
early to carry his traps, and after breakfast Mr. L. 
set out on foot, and cHmbed the steep, winding 
path to the open summit. With the good little 
chico as our guide, we went up the main river to 
spin for trout. Our gilly had provided several 
bogas for bait. 

We went up and down along a narrow, stony 
path by the wide foaming river. Vipers glided to 
cover at our approach. Every fresh bend of the 
river seemed to open out a finer, more savage 
prospect. The roar of the water at some of the 
falls was almost deafening. Our lad led the way 
nimbly, jumping from rock to rock. We reached 
a pinnacle, and gazed down upon the powerful 
flood surging among the boulders. These deeps 
of the Sil are almost horrible to look upon, as they 
swirl and eddy beneath the crags and banks of 

After a pleasant repast in the shade we began 
to spin. The chico said that Mr. L. had caught a 
five-pound trout in this very pool a few days before 
our coming. We hoped that such luck would fall 

In the Kingdom of Galicia 117 

to us. Alas! the desire was not to be realized. 
Pool after pool was tried, and two spinning tackles 
lost among the rocks. I pricked one trout. He 
came out from under a boulder, plucked at the 
bait, and then fled. This fish looked as though 
he might weigh a couple of pounds. 

* Hard lines, but it can't be helped,' I said, as 
we threw ourselves down to rest below a huge 
mass of dislodged rock. 

I took out my dictionary to look for a Spanish 
word. When I had found it, the chico asked if 
he might have the book. I gave it to him, and 
he turned over the pages with intense interest. 
Presently he found a word that excited his 
orthodox indignation. * Cismdtico ' was the word 
of terror. ' Cismdtico malo, malo !' he murmured. 
I suppose that from the boy's point of view a 
schismatic is a very dangerous and immoral person. 
Good little chico ! there are many things undreamt 
of in your philosophy. How odd that the child 
should have chanced upon that word * cismdtico ' ! 

Shad ascend the Sil, and spawn in these higher 
reaches of the river. They are netted in some of 
the pools, and even taken in long-handled nets in 
certain parts. A few salmon, no doubt, come up 
as high as this reach at Los Pearas ; but the over- 

ii8 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

netting in the estuary, and, in fact, all the way 
along the Minho and Sil, has ruined the salmon- 
fishing for anglers. Ford speaks of the Minho as 
a productive salmon river. It may have been so 
in his day. At the present time only a few salmon 
can escape the nets that are always at work in the 
lower reaches at Caminha and Tuy. Yet what a 
grand salmon river it might be ! Water that can 
produce trout up to 30 pounds in weight ought to 
be capable of providing mighty salmon. As for 
the shad, they come up in large numbers, as I 
shall show in another chapter. 

We saw nothing grander in Spain than this 
lonely, rugged gorge of the Sil at Los Pearas. It 
is a scene of beauty and majesty mingled with the 
terrific. The rolling, roaring river is cruel in its 
might, fierce and remorseless in its wild flow. It 
has claimed many victims. The loud cry of its 
tumbhng, tossing waters lingered long in our ears. 
My wife was haunted with tragic dreams of this 
strange, fear-inspiring flood. 

George Borrow refers to the Minho in his 
'Wild Wales,' in writing upon Monmouthshire. 
Monmouth is named after * the river Mynwy, or 
Minno,' as Borrow has it. This tributary of the 
Wye is more commonly called the Monnow, and 

In the Kingdom of Galicia 119 

it is a good trout stream. * There is a river of 
much the same name, not in Macedon, but in the 
Peninsula,' says Borrow, * namely, the Minho, 
which probably got its denomination from that 
race cognate to the Cumry, the Gael, who were 
the first colonizers of the Peninsula, and whose 
generic name yet stares us in the face, and salutes 
our ears in the words " Galicia " and ** Portugal."' 

According to Dr. Isaac Taylor, in his valuable 
'Words and Places,' gal is a Celtic root. It is 
found in Gall-ia, Gal-way, Done-gal, and other 
place-names. Dr. Taylor says * the inhabitants of 
Gal-icia and Portu-gal possess more Celtic blood 
than those who inhabit any other portion of the 

In appearance they bear a certain resemblance 
to the Welsh Celts. They have a hard struggle 
with Nature in these rocky regions ; but they are 
thrifty and shrewd, and very little seems to suffice 
for their wants. Every bit of soil that can be 
cultivated in the Valley of the Minho is planted 
with vines, potatoes, and other vegetables. The 
Galicians are hardy, like most mountaineers. 
They love their savage, romantic land, and they 
fought fiercely to beat back the Moorish invaders. 

The Gallegos, as they are called in Spain, have 

I20 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

their own tongue, their own customs, songs, and 
dances. Their women wear bright bodices and 
shawls, and they are fond of big earrings. Upon 
their heads they tie gaily-coloured handkerchiefs. 
They work in the fields with the men, and work 
as well as their husbands, brothers, and sons, 
turning the soil with forks, training the vines, and 
garnering the chestnuts and grapes. The life of 
the Gallegos recalls a passage in ' Don Quixote,' 
where the Knight resolves to turn shepherd : 

*"The oaks, the cork-trees, and chestnut-trees 
will afford us both lodging and diet, the willows 
will yield us their shade, the roses present us their 
inoffensive sweets, and the spacious meads will be 
our carpets, diversified with colours of all sorts ; 
blessed with the purest air, and unconfined alike, 
we shall breathe that, and freedom ..." 

' ** Sure enough," quoth Sancho, *' this sort of 
life suits me to a hair." ' 

The Gallegos do not care to roam far from their 
country. They are said to possess so great a love 
of their native land that home-sickness is with 
them a true malady. 



Before leaving Los Pearas, let me say that the 
best water for the heavy trout is a league or 
more up the river. Some of the pools are 40 feet 
in depth. Here and there the river rushes with 
tremendous force between great boulders, or falls 
in cascades of 5 feet or 6 feet in height. Very 
little of the water can be waded. Spinning from 
the rocks is the most successful mode of fishing. 
These big fighting trout afford magnificent sport. 
Mr. L. is often compelled to play a fish for half an 
hour. An apparently beaten trout will sometimes 
make another great rush for the opposite side of 
the pool. These upper pools of the Sil and Minho 
may be said to produce the largest trout in Europe. 
The rivers are poached in various ways, but these 
huge deep pools baffle the illicit fishermen, who 
devote their attention to the shallows and tribu- 


122 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

We were sorry to leave the good Sastre couple 
at the end of a week's pleasant sojourn. A long, 
slow railway-journey brought us to Ponferrada at 
two in the morning. The fonda omnibus was out- 
side the station, and two or three sleepy passengers 
left the train. We entered the vehicle, which 
rattled and bumped us through the silent streets 
of the little town. At a kind of sentry-box the 
omnibus drew up, and a man in uniform, holding 
a lantern, peered into the coach. 

* Turistas, Ingleses,' I said to the officer. 

He muttered something to the driver, and the 
pair of scraggy horses started at a gallop up the 
street, and over a bridge spanning the Sil. A 
steep serpentine road led us to the plaza and the 
fonda. The senora was up to receive guests, and 
she led us to a room at the back of the house. 

I stepped on to the balcony. Daylight was just 
stealing over the mountains, and a snowy crest 
was tinged with pink and gold. The moon was 
shining above a grand escarpment of rock, and 
daybreak had not yet paled the brilliant stars. A 
loud crow issuing from a fowl-roost was the only 
sound besides a low murmur of flowing water. I 
could hardly leave the balcony. The scene was 

At Ponferrada 123 

Ponferrada is amongst imposing mountains, and 
situated on a hill over 1,600 feet above the sea. 
It has quaint buildings, and commands a splendid 
view of the Sil, which issues from a gorge about a 
mile upstream, and flows through the town. The 
place can boast of a fishing association, and holds, 
therefore, the esteem of the angler. The members 
are rod fishermen, with a detestation of dynamite. 
The ley de pesca (fishing law) prohibits the 
employment of explosives for killing fish, but in 
these lonely valleys it is no easy matter to discover 
poachers, and a large quantity of fish is destroyed. 

I am glad to say, however, that trout are 
increasing at Ponferrada. Since my visit I have 
received a letter from a local fisherman, who tells 
me several heavy trout, some of over 6 pounds, 
were taken with the fly during the spring of 1903. 
The bogas are also more numerous than they were, 
which should show that both trout and coarse fish 
are multiplying through the efforts of the associa- 
tion to suppress the use of infernal dynamite. 

You can even buy artificial flies in Ponferrada. 
The maker is a professional fisherman and tackle- 
maker named Gancedo. He has fished the Sil for 
many years, and his son is also an angler. 
Gancedo's flies are big hackles, with plain, sober 

124 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

dressing. The gut is coarse, and the flies are 
rough. But they kill fish in the Sil, as I shall 
show presently. Altogether the outlook is hopeful 
at Ponferrada, and I trust that English fishermen 
will not forget to contribute to the association. 

There is a choice of two hotels at Ponferrada. 
We chose the one in the plaza, and paid 5 pesetas 
per diem for moderate accommodation. The 
weather was anything but favourable, but upon 
the day after our arrival I engaged an attendant to 
carry my bag, brogues, and wading-stockings, and 
started out at ten in the morning to fish up the Sil. 
Antonio, my companion, was a good-humoured, 
attentive lad, with merry blue eyes. He told me 
that he had been out fishing once before with an 
Englishman, who ' caught nothing.' 

A young chum joined Antonio before we were 
out of the town. The day was fiery hot and dead 
still. No ripples showed on the clear green pools. 
I fished several runs with the fly. 

We came to a long shallow with enough stream 
for a wet fly, and I waded in and began to cast. 
For half an hour I fished without rising a single 
trout. In the gorge, half a mile further up the 
river, I was more successful. I rose several fish 
and caught a brace. Then the natural flies 

At Ponferrada 125 

disappeared and the trout ceased to rise. As 
Antonio declared that there were trout as long as 
his forearm in the pool, I put on a small Devon 
minnow, and tried spinning close to the rocky 
bank. This failed to tempt a fish, so I put on the 
fly cast again and went up to some broken water. 
Here I took another trout of about ^ pound, and 
rose a fish here and there. 

On a dull day I think the pool would yield 
some good trout. I saw several big fish near the 
surface, but the glare was so intense that one 
could not cast without putting them down. A 
three-pounder jumped in one of the runs further 
up, and I saw enough rises to satisfy me that there 
are a very fair number of trout in this length. 

Antonio's friend departed at mid-day, after 
sharing the contents of the luncheon-bag. My 
gilly was a jewel. He was inexperienced in fishing, 
but he knew instinctively what was required of him, 
and he seemed at once to understand the queries 
that I put to him in imperfect Spanish. Antonio 
told me that bears, wolves, wild-cats, and foxes, 
inhabited the mountains of the district. He spoke 
of a laguna, several miles from Ponferrada, full of 
very big eels and no other fish. 

I was much impressed by the intelligence of the 

126 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Spanish rural working class. These people have 
a rare native v^it, and are without the stupidity 
and apathy often associated with the terms * rustic' 
or * bucolic' Here was an ostler at a country inn, 
who could converse in an entertaining fashion 
with a foreigner who possessed a meagre acquaint- 
ance with the language of the country. What is 
more, Antonio often read my thoughts before I 
uttered them. When education spreads among 
the people of Spain, we shall hear less dismal 
prophecy of her downfall. She will be born again 
before many years have passed. 

Antonio and I had the river to ourselves. We 
met not a solitary peasant throughout the day. 
I was casting over a pool, when my attendant 
uttered a cry and began to strip off his clothes. 
He pointed wildly to the river, and in the middle 
of the stream I saw a floating fish. Antonio 
was into the water in a trice. He swam with 
a powerful stroke, retrieved the fish, and came 
ashore with a look of pride. The fish looked 
like a chub of about a pound in weight. I did not 
handle it, for it was a * demmed unpleasant 
body ' to look upon, and possessed a powerful 

The lad threw the fish away, and was into his 

At Ponferrada 127 

clothes almost as quickly as he had disrobed him- 
self. I had a mind to follow his example, and to 
take a plunge into the deep, cool water ; but I was 
too tired and lazy to take off my brogues and 

This was an enjoyable day, though my bag only 
contained six trout at five o'clock. I might have 
waited for the evening rise, but I had promised 
my wife that I would be at the fonda by the 
dinner-hour. We had a long, rough walk before 
us. Antonio proposed a short-cut. There is a 
Spanish proverb, translated by George Borrow, to 
the purport that ' He who takes short-cuts makes 
more labour for himself in the long-run.' A stiff 
climb in the broiling sun brought us to a long 
rocky ridge over the river. The effort of climbing 
was rewarded by a wide and glorious view of the 
mountains stretching away into Asturias, the course 
of the Sil below Ponferrada, and the snow-capped 
summit which had met our first gaze from the 
balcony on the morning of our arrival. It was 
indeed a most noble panorama of grim mountain 
grandeur, green fertile plain, and silvery stream. 

Upon the following day I went alone by an 
early train to Toral de los Vados (the Chief of the 
Fords), a village situated on the right bank of the 

128 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

river, a few miles below Ponferrada. Antonio 
looked greatly disappointed when he saw me start 
alone. However, I had no especial need for his 
services. At Toral I took a glass of red wine 
at the fonda, and asked the hostess if she could 
provide sleeping accommodation. She answered 
that she would be pleased to do so. 

' Good/ I said ; * if there are many trout here, I 
will come with my wife.' 

A tributary joins the Sil at Toral de los Vados. 
The main river flows through a wider valley than 
that of Ponferrada, and spreads itself over gravelly 
shoals. Better water for wading and fishing the 
fisherman could not desire. I looked up at the 
ardent sky. There was not the slightest sign of a 
change in the weather. The river was clear as 
crystal. Well, perhaps I might entice a few trout 
from the rough water. There is nothing like 

I fished down the tributary to the big river. 
Plenty of troutlets darted away from the banks of 
the little stream, and I caught one of them on the 
orange dun. Then I came to the Sil, and found a 
fine tumbling run, which seemed a likely place. 
The truth is not always interesting. I must, 
however, honestly confine myself to dry fact. No 

At Ponfcrrada 129 

fish, except the fingerling and one small boga, 
came to hand that day. I hooked one good fish. 
I saw him turn in the water, but in a second he 
was firee, and I was lamenting. 

Most of the day was spent in the shade of a 
grove near the river. The heat was tremendous, 
and there was no breeze to cool the air of the 
valley. I saw two men building up fish-traps with 
stones, and one solitary and sun- scorched herds- 
man tending some cows and goats. At about four 
o'clock I had to catch the train for Ponferrada. 
The train was crowded with harvesters, hundreds 
of Gallegos in the costume of their country. They 
crowded at the windows and filled all the seats. 
I was glad that the journey would only be one of a 
few minutes. Antonio was at the station. 

* Many?' he asked. 

* Nada' (Nothing), I replied. 

He offered sympathy, and I got into the 
ramshackle omnibus. 



We found agreeable company at the fonda. The 
registrar of the town was a constant guest, and he 
showed us great politeness. This caballero was 
an educated man, with a refined face and pleasant 
manners. We also made friends with the Mayor 
of a pueblo amongst the mountains, about twenty- 
five miles from Ponferrada. He said that if we 
would go up into his country we should * catch 
trout enough.' Was not the river full of fish ? 
Why, there were men living there who made it 
their business to catch trout for the Madrid 
market. They lived by fishing. 

* Do they use nets ?' I asked. 

* Not so much,' the Mayor replied. ' They 
have canas (rods) like your own.' 

One evening the registrar said : ' Senor, I have 
seen to-day a man who speaks English, and 
knows much about fishing.' 


The Hamlet of Matarosa 131 

* Bueno — many thanks,' I returned. * I would 
like to meet him.' 

'You shall do so this evening,' said the regis- 
trar. * His name is Angel Gancedo, and he 
is a waiter at the casino of which I am a 

After dinner, the registrar, the Mayor, and 
another caballero escorted us to the club. Great 
respect was shown to the English senora, who was 
still unmistakably English, though she wore a 
black mantilla. I cannot say whether Spanish 
ladies visit the clubs. At any rate, my wife's entry 
caused no astonishment. We all sat down to a 
table, and the Mayor called for coffee. Then 
Angel Gancedo appeared. He is a young man of 
about twenty-eight, the son of Gancedo the fisher- 
man of Ponferrada. 

' So you speak English ?' I said. 

* Oh yes,' he replied, with an apologetic shrug 
of the shoulders. ' I was servant to an English 
family at Rivadavia, and I have travelled with an 
English merchant.' He mentioned a name well 
known in Covent Garden. 

* You are also a fisherman ?' 

* I have fished all my life, and my father before 


132 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Our Spanish hosts listened to the English tongue 
with smiling interest. 

* Is it good English that he speaks ?' asked one 
of them. 

' Very good,' I said. 

Angel rose at once in the estimation of the 
company. He was actually able to carry on a 
long conversation with the English strangers. 
Bravo, Ponferrada ! Even in Seville there are few 
men who can speak the English language. 

We arranged that Angel should accompany us 
up the river, to act as our guide and interpreter. 
He proposed to bring his rod, and some mysterious 
bait, which he had found very deadly for trout. 
We agreed to meet at the fonda upon the following 
morning. After an exchange of civilities with our 
friends, we left the casino. 

Angel arrived at the hotel at about nine in the 
morning. The diligence did not leave Ponferrada 
until one o'clock, but our guide had resolved to be 
punctual. We strolled about the town, and Angel 
showed me his house. He is a married man with 
one child. The house was purchased from the 
proceeds of transactions in the way of exports 
with the gentleman in Covent Garden. It was 
strange to hear a native of this out-of-the-way 

The Hamlet of Matarosa 133 

corner of Spain talking of Covent Garden. Angel 
had never been to England. 

Then my companion proposed that we should 
drink a glass of white wine. We entered a wine 
tienda, sat down, and exchanged cigarettes. The 
landlady questioned Angel about me. Who was 
I ? English or French ? A fisherman for pleasure ! 
Caramba ! how queer ! Well, no doubt the 
English are a curious people. When we returned 
to the fonda, a very important person was standing 
in the portico. He saluted me by raising his 
sombrero, and I lifted my boina. I gathered from 
Angel that the gentleman was a Deputy-Governor 
or some other official of rank. He wished to see 
my artificial flies. I handed him my fly-book, and 
he turned over the leaves. 

* Bonita !' (Pretty !), he remarked. * But they 
are small, very small.' 

Compared with the huge moscas used by the 
Leon anglers, my flies were certainly small, though 
in Yorkshire or Derbyshire they would be de- 
scribed as big. The senor gave me back the fly- 
book with a gracious bow. I raised my boina, 
and he went his way. 

Angel's infallible bait was the live stone-fly. 
He had a tin box containing a number of these 

134 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

insects. His rod was about 20 feet long, made of 
bamboo, with a switch for a top. Attached to 
this was a length of cord, and a cast of stout gut, 
strong enough to hold a twenty-pound salmon. 
This was all the luggage that he carried. 

The coach was supposed to leave at one o'clock. 
It was about two before we started. Angel and 
the Mayor occupied the interior, and my wife 
and I sat by the driver. There was a mixed team 
of gaunt mules and bony horses, six in number, 
each with jangling bells around his neck. The 
jehu started his steeds with the customary yells 
and oaths. They broke into a lolloping canter 
along a straight dusty road, and the coach swayed 
from side to side. 

Before we had gone a couple of miles, the flanks 
of the half-starved beasts were wet with sweat. I 
knew what was coming. The man took up his 
whip, and began to butt-end the ribs of the 
wretched creatures. Whack! whack! whack! 
Every blow seemed to fall upon us, to sting our 
flesh. I could not endure it. I longed to fling 
the fellow from the box. 

'No, no !' I cried, as the driver was dealing a 
fearful blow at one of the horses. 

I held his arm firmly. 

The Hamlet of Matarosa 135 

* Oh, please don't beat them,' begged my wife. 
* We are going quite fast enough.' 

The man looked astounded. A frown crossed 
his face, and I feared that we might have a quarrel 
and a scene. However, he put the whip down 
without uttering a word. No doubt he regarded 
us as lunatics. His beasts were not Christians ; 
they had no souls. The Holy Church had never 
forbidden him to beat them. Ah, this cruelty to 
animals, it is a sad blot upon Spain ! 

Our remonstrances had some effect upon the 
coach-driver. For the rest of the stage he used the 
lash less freely, and never the handle of the whip 
to thrash his skinny jades. We were glad when 
we reached the halfway house, and the horses and 
mules were led away to a stable. Poor animals ! 
their legs shook beneath them, and their coats 
were reeking. The roadside venta stood at the 
foot of a pass, a lonely hovel, one bare room with 
earth for the floor. Angel said that robbers had 
broken into the house one night, bound the 
proprietor to a chair, and stripped him of his 
belongings. It was the kind of den where one 
might expect to meet with adventures. 

The fresh team started at a gallop up the steep 
ascent. A new cochero held the reins, and 

136 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

cracked his long whip over the ears of the leaders. 
Jingle-jangle we went up the hill, which was 
almost as steep as the upper part of the Pass of 
Llanberis. Our driver stamped his feet, shouted, 
raved, swore, and brandished the whip. He 
behaved in this fashion until the team broke into 
a canter along one of the few level stretches of the 
road. Gray mountains bounded the valley. The 
country was sterile and the grass parched. Thick 
dust lay upon the highway, and trailed behind the 
wheels of the rumbling diligence. 

The district is sparsely populated. We passed 
only one village, a primitive place on the rocky 
bank of the Sil, with squat houses, picturesque 
peasants, and an air of poverty. We stayed here 
for a few minutes, and then went bowling along a 
lovely vale, with wooded slopes below rocky peaks, 
and the river foaming deep down in its rugged 

* Matarosa,' said the driver, pulling up at the 
door of a small stone-built posada. 

The Mayor alighted, and we were introduced to 
the host and hostess of this very humble tavern. 
Mountains, rocks, fir-trees, a bridge over a deep 
pool, the Sil, a few squalid houses by the roadside, 
and a boy in a sheepskin coat — such was our first 

The Hamlet of Matarosa 137 

glimpse of Matarosa. Daniel Perez was our 
host's cognomen. He was a burly, swarthy man, 
in a blouse and boina. The hostess was plump. 
She carried a baby in her arms, and wore a short 
green skirt of many pleats, a bright bodice, and a 
pink handkerchief upon her head. We bargained 
for boarding terms, and agreed to pay 4 pesetas 
each by the day. 

Then Perez led us to his wine-shed, and we 
tasted wine from a huge cask while his dame 
prepared a meal. We dined in a room which 
would be described as a * tap ' in England. The 
table was of rough wood ; the seats were wooden 
benches. Behind a small counter were a few big 
sausages, a tub of pickled trout, and sundry 
bottles of wine and spirits. There was no glass 
to the window. You passed through a covered 
courtyard, where mules were stabled, to enter this 
apartment. The place was undoubtedly rustic, 
and the fare was plain. 

Muleteers, herdsmen, and wayfarers formed 
the company at this tavern. They were rough- 
looking fellows, but all of them picturesque, and 
none of them uncivil. Angel had had some 
misgivings concerning our reception at the 

138 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

' These are good people,' he whispered. * It is 
all right.' 

* Good appetite attend you, gentlemen,' said an 
old man from the doorway. 

He sat down and began to question Angel. The 
old peasant was a fisherman, and he made his own 
flies. I have some of them in my desk as I write 
— big hackles, with bodies of string, on large 

* He says we shall catch trout to-night,' 
interpreted Angel. 

The old fisherman looked at my flies. Santa 
Maria ! they were pretty enough. But, man, how 
could I catch big trout with those little hooks? 
And the rod, it was too short, too slender — a mere 
toy, fit only for children. He jerked his thumb 
to the road, where his 20 feet of bamboo rested 
against the balcony. That was the sort of cana 
for the trout of the Sil. A group of open-eyed 
peasants, men, women, and children, stood in the 
doorway while we talked. I addressed them in 
English, and they smiled and laughed. We were 
the first English folk seen in their hamlet. They 
talked in a dialect which was wholly unintelligible 
to me, and sometimes baffling to Angel. We were 
among the people : there was no doubt about it. I 

The Hamlet of Matarosa 139 

wonder whether they were as interested in us as 
we were in them. 

There were still two hours of daylight. We 
started up the river, accompanied by the old 
fisherman's son. The glen was beautiful in the 
fading sunlight. Angel and the native took one 
side of the stream, and we fished from the other 

* A rise,' I said, as the water was troubled close 
to my point fly. 

* I have him !' cried my wife. 

She had hooked a trout just off a wild rush of 
water among rocks. There was no doubt that the 
fish was a good one, for the little greenheart rod 
bent like a sickle, and the line flew out of the reel. 
But fish and hook soon parted company. Never 
mind: this was an earnest of sport to come. 
That evening, however, not one of us brought 
a single fish to the bank. I rose at least a dozen 
fish, and pricked some of them ; but luck was 
against us. We went back to incur the banter of 
the landlord. Four rods and no fish ! Perhaps 
he muttered the Spanish equivalent for * duffers.' 
We were, at all events, satisfied that the river was 
well stored with trout. The evening was passed 
in conversation with Angel. 



'Another burning, cloudless day,' I said, step- 
ping on to the balcony of the inn. 

It was half-past seven, and the sun was high 
over the mountains. Two Civil Guards, with 
their rifles under their arms, came down a path 
on the opposite side of the Sil, and crossed the 
bridge. They had been scouring the mountains 
during the night. Were they in search of brigands 
or of contrabandists? The Guards saluted as 
they passed the house. 

* Good-day, senor ; I hope you are rested.' 
These exchanges of courtesy in Spain are 

pleasant. They make the stranger feel at home 
in a foreign land, and show that the people are 
kindly disposed towards one. 

' Yes, many thanks. It is very hot.' 

* Si, senor. God be with you.' And the men 
passed on, the sun gleaming upon their glazed, 


By the Wild Sil 141 

black, three-cornered hats and the barrels of their 

At the end of the balcony was a heap of bed- 
ding and blankets. Perez and his wife, good 
souls, had vacated their own bedroom, and slept 
on the balcony, so that the English people might 
have the best apartment that their posada could 

' What shall we do ?' I said to Angel. * This is 
not a good fishing-day.' 

* Yes, it is a good day for my bait,' he responded. 

* Well, we shall see,' I said. * It seems to me 
that we had better wait till the sun is low.' 

*No, it is better when the sun is high,' pro- 
tested Angel. 

We went out into the glare, and followed a 
path along the right bank of the river. Angel 
chose to stay at a deep pool where the water was 
suitable for his style of fishing. My wife and I 
proceeded up the river, and came to a broad 
shallow, broken with a few rocks. Wading was 
safe here, and the water was perfect for fly 
fishing. A few small trout were bagged, and one 
good fish broke the gut of a dropper fly. 

In a deeper length, where the water eddied near 
the bank, a trout of | pound came at the orange 

142 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

dun, and was duly netted. This eddy was full 
of fish. They were rising everywhere ; but the 
water was clear, and it was difficult to prevent 
one's shadow from falling upon the pool. How- 
ever, the eddy yielded two more trout, and we had 
several rises. Then I went down to Angel's pool, 
to see what he was doing. He had twice risen a 
big trout with the stone-fly, but the fish had 
refused the infallible lure. 

* It is too bright,' I said. 

' No, it is good for my fishing,' asserted Angel. 

I left him to his dapping, perched on a rock 
over a pool about lo feet deep. It was just the 
spot for a big trout ; but the sun-glare was power- 
ful on the clear water, and every standing fish 
could see his shadow. 

My wife had to retire to the shade. The 
heat was exhausting, and the glitter of the swift 
water tired our eyes. I wished it would rain. A 
little real English weather would have been a 
grateful change. There had been no rain for at 
least a fortnight. In England our friends were 
grumbling at the incessant downpour and the low 
temperature. * We envy you,' they wrote. Well, 
the sunshine was glorious ; we had been warmed 
through and through with it since the beginning 

By the Wild Sil 143 

of March, and our faces were well tanned. Still, 
I wished that it would rain. Here was a grand 
river, full of trout that would rise to the fly, but 
the sunshine proved a serious hindrance to sport. 

We decided to return to the inn and take a 
siesta until six o'clock. At that hour the sun 
would be hidden by the higher peaks of the moun- 
tains. Angel had not met with success. The 
infalHble stone-fly had been refused with disdain, 
and our little hackles had done more execution. 
Some peasants were eating their mid- day meal in 
the tavern. One of them was a fine handsome girl, 
named FeHcia Gonzalez. * Strapping' is hardly 
expressive enough as an adjective to convey her 
proportions. She was a veritable giantess, and 
her age was only fourteen. Felicia appeared to 
be quite twenty years old. She was fair-haired, 
with a golden-brown skin, blue eyes, and refined 
features. I cannot describe her costume. It was 
a wealth of colour from her head-kerchief to her 
green stockings. She was a goat and cow keeper, 
and one of the best singers and dancers in 
Matarosa. Felicia's meal consisted of a foot of 
bread and a piece of fat bacon. How she enjoyed 
it ! For our part, we could scarcely swallow our 
soup and stewed fowl. It was too hot to eat. 

144 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

A team of mules pulled up at the door, and the 
driver entered. 

* Good-day, gentlemen ; a good appetite attend 

Perez fished up a couple of trout from the pickle- 
tub, cut off a hunk of bread, and poured out a 
glass of red wine for the hungry muleteer. 
Naturally, the new-comer asked who we were, 
and what we were doing at Matarosa. Angel 
gave him the information. Having finished her 
luncheon, Felicia took her staff and stalked out 
of the inn, the soles of her wooden shoes clacket- 
ing upon the road. The muleteer and Angel lit 
their cigarettes, and we retired to sleep until the 

It was cloudy towards the late afternoon. 
Rain was actually threatening. A fresher breeze 
came down from the pine-covered hills, and 
whirled the dust on the road. We were refreshed 
by our siesta. Estanislas, the boy in the sheepskin 
coat, was waiting to accompany us up the river. 
He had brought his long, heavy bamboo rod 
and on his back was a basket something like an 
ordinary creel, but without a lid to it. We made 
our way up the river. 
The water was no longer dazzling bright, for 

By the Wild Sil 145 

the gathering clouds cast a shadow over the narrow 
valley. I determined to try the minnow in some 
wild, rushing water that afforded plenty of har- 
bourage for trout among the rocks. To my 
delight, I pricked a fish at the first cast. I dis- 
tinctly dislike pricking trout with the ghastly 
array of hooks on an artificial minnow, but I 
was pleased to find that the minnow so quickly 
attracted a fish. This pricking and missing 
is the worst part of minnow fishing. I think 
that the flying triangles are to blame. It is not 
often that one loses a fish hooked on the tail 

Meanwhile, Estanislas was pulling out trout 
with his formidable bamboo rod. He cast with a 
loud switching noise across the stream, and let 
his dozen big flies swim down in the broken water. 
At each cast the weight of the rod nearly toppled 
the little fellow into the whirling current. But 
this chico is a good angler. He catches quite as 
many trout as the men. My wife took a photo- 
graph of the boy casting over a pool, near the 
bridge at Matarosa. I continued to spin off the 
rough water close to the bank. Presently a 
number of stones came rolling down the slope 
behind me. They were either set going by some 


146 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

mischievous person, or dislodged by goats. When 
a second volley rattled by me I put down my rod, 
looked up the cliff, and roared out threats of the 
Guardia Civil. No more stones were thrown. I 
do not wish to think that the missiles were aimed 
at me by a native. They may easily have slipped 
from the feet of a wandering flock of goats high 
up in the gorge. 

The next trout that came at the minnow was 
well hooked. He was a stubborn fighter, and the 
reel sang as he made downstream in the rushing 
white water. I drew him sideways from the 
rapids, and worked him to slower water, where 
he gave a leap. His golden sides showed for an 
instant in the air. I saw that he was a good fish. 
After a few minutes of give and take I tired him 
out, and slipped the net under him. He weighed 
2 pounds. 

I failed to take another trout in this troubled 
length, though I am sure that there were many 
fish in it as big as the one that I had caught. 
Coming to a quieter reach, I put on the fly-cast, 
and rose two or three fish in midstream. Near 
the bridge I turned over a very fine trout, but he 
escaped. A few small trout were taken and 
returned. It was now almost dark, and as the 

By the Wild Sil 147 

rain began to patter down we returned to the 

Reflecting upon the day's adventures, I arrived 
at the opinion that the natives were right when 
they condemned our flies as too small, and our 
casts as too fine. Most of the fish that I had 
pricked and lost made at once, upon feeling the 
hook, for the foaming, heavy water. Say what 
you will about skill and fine quality gut, it is very 
easy to lose a fish in these tumbling rivers. The 
strain is tremendous when a trout of 2 or 3 
pounds weight rushes into these seething white 
runs and gets out of hand. You need a fairly 
powerful rod, a medium loch cast, and a hook 
with a good barb, to get on even terms with these 
wild, strong fish. I would undertake to rise and 
prick three times as many trout as the fishermen 
of Matarosa, by using small flies and drawn 

The natives leave the pools alone unless they 
are discoloured by flood-water, and fish only in 
the broken streams. On the pools I rose and lost 
a number of good trout. This pricking and 
missing became intolerable. At last I threw all 
my British prejudice to the winds, bought a cast 
of the local flies — about eight in number — and 

10 — 2 

148 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

followed the examples of the Pescadores. I used a 
fourteen-foot rod with both hands, a grilse line and 
reel, and the aforesaid thick cast and enormous 
flies. The result was that I rose fewer fish, and 
only scared them in the pools ; but those that I 
rose in the runs I almost invariably brought to 
the net. 

The sense of power that this heavy tackle gave 
me was remarkable after using a light, whippy, 
ten-foot rod, a thin line, and fine cast. I feared 
none of those terrific rushes into the boiling runs 
and tossing rapids. A hooked trout was held 
hard, soon played out, and brought to the bank. 
After all, it is senseless to lose good trout through 
a bigoted fealty to the tradition that it is un- 
sportsmanlike to use tackle that gives one two 
chances instead of one in combat with fish. 

In big rough waters of the main rivers of the 
Peninsula, small flies, such as one would use in 
Devonshire or Derbyshire, are almost useless. It 
stands to reason that a trout must be very near 
the surface, and keenly on the alert, to notice a 
tiny olive dun hackle-fly amid the swirl and wash 
of a heavy run. If he sees the fly and takes it, 
the chances are that he will fight free ; for besides 
the strength of a fish bred in strongly-flowing 

By the Wild Sil i49 

water, and accustomed to fighting the streams, 
you have to contend with a great strain upon the 
cast caused by the push of a wild run. I am no 
advocate for tackle that will yank a pounder out 
without any play ; but I have proved the futility 
of fishing too * fine ' in such strong rivers as the 
Ason, Minho, and Sil, where it is quite within 
the bounds of probability that you may at 
any moment have to try your cunning and 
the strength of your cast with a three-pound or 
four-pound fish in a tremendous force of tumbhng 

With my long rod and strong cast, bristling 
with the local flies, I was able to catch more trout, 
though I am sure that I could have obtained more 
rises in the slower water with my light rod, 
fine gut, and small flies. However, the fish 
fought well enough on the stronger tackle, and I 
was often compelled to let them run out the line 
and to humour them to the net. 

After the rain there was a tinge of colour in the 
Sil. I tried the minnow again, and had many 
runs, beside taking trout up to a pound apiece. 
As the water was fining, we had some sport with 
the fly. Still, the local anglers easily excelled us 
in the number of their captures. For one reason, 

150 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

they had the good sense to begin fishing at about 
three in the morning, while we were soundly 
asleep. They also had the advantage of knowing 
all the best runs up and down the river for several 
miles, and their clumsy flies were of the right 
pattern for the trout of this productive water. 
At Matarosa, for the first time in Spain, we had 
to confess ourselves beaten by the native anglers. 
They brought back fine baskets of fish almost 
every night, ranging from half - pounders to 
pounders, and sometimes heavier trout. Just as 
we were beginning to know the river, it was time to 
move on, for we had planned a long peregrination. 
All things considered, however, we were gratified 
with our experiences at this queer little hamlet on 
the higher Sil. 

The river here is unquestionably very productive 
of trout. It was seldom that the old fisherman 
and his son returned with less that 7 pounds 
of trout on the brightest days, and their catch was 
often 10 pounds in more favourable weather. 
Catches of this weight are not out of the common 
in parts of the United Kingdom. But the dry-fly 
angler who can match these takes in weight from 
the much-fished streams of Derbyshire must be 
remarkably expert. 

By the Wild Sil 151 

On the Wye, for example, in the length from 
Bakewell to Rowsley, a ten-pound basket would 
be considered highly extraordinary 

Writing on the Derbyshire rivers in the Fishing 
Gazette^ August 29, 1903, Mr. J. Paul Taylor says : 
*An occasional good day may be had (my best 
was four brace of fair trout 7 ounces to 9 ounces 
each), but it is balanced by many days averaging a 
brace or so.' 

Half a mile of the Darenth is reckoned to be 
worth anything from £2^ to ^^30 for the season. 
No doubt the trout are big. But there are 
heavier trout in the Sil, and more fish, and you 
may angle in fifty miles of the river for two 
months at a less cost than the rent of a half-mile 
length on the Kentish streamlet. The actual 
expenses of fishing are restricted to the purchase 
of tackle ; the cost of living is about 25s. a week, 
and the rest of the expense is in railway travelling. 
Unfortunately, one cannot run down to the Sil for 
a week-end. What would this length at Matarosa 
be worth in England ? Here is an advertisement 
from the Field of March 5, 1904 : * Six miles 
of excellent trout-fishing on the Don. £^0 to the 
end of April.' 

You must be content with rough lodging if you 

152 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

go to Matarosa. The fare is the best that the 
house can provide, and it is hardly up to the 
standard of a wayside inn in Great Britain. 
However, the big peas (garbanzos) are very 
nourishing, to say the least ; and if the hens are 
tough, they are still fowl. Eggs, goats' milk, 
bread, and wine, complete the menu, though I must 
not forget the cold pickled trout. I asked Perez 
to show hospitality to any of my compatriots who 
might visit Matarosa. He promised to do so, 
though he shook his head, and said : * I do not 
think any English will come.' Who can tell ? 
Perchance the tavern at Matarosa may grow into 
an anglers' hotel. We have a nomadic tribe of 
fishermen in England who will travel any distance 
in quest of trout. 

During our last night at Matarosa I felt a 
distinct tremor of earthquake, which awoke me. 
In the Spanish newspapers of the following day I 
read that shocks had been noted in several parts 
of the Peninsula. 

We left the hamlet with the goodwill of the 
people. A group assembled to bid us * adios ' when 
the coach drew up at the door. Estanislas was 
delighted with a few centimos. We drank the 
last glass of red wine, and Angel fastened his long 


By the Wild Sil 153 

rod along the roof of the vehicle. * Adios, adios !* 
We waved our hands to the smiling group. Our 
cochero began to rave at his team, and to thump 
the footboard with his feet ; and off we started 
down the noble valley of the Sil for Ponferrada. 



The noble Rio Minho rises in the north of the 
kingdom of Galicia, in the province of Lugo. Its 
source is among the mountains of Meira, to the 
south-east of the town of Mondonedo. Flowing 
southwards, and receiving numerous tributaries, 
the Minho passes the town of Lugo, and, watering 
some lovely valleys, enters the province of Orense 
at Los Pearas. Here, as I have said in a former 
chapter, the Sil joins the Minho, and the united 
streams form a wide, swirling, unnavigable river 
down to Tuy and the tidal water. My readers 
who know the fine limestone ravine of the Derby- 
shire Wye, between Monsal Dale and Miller's 
Dale, can gain a mind-picture in miniature of the 
Minho in its course above the town of Orense. 

In the neighbourhood of Rivadavia the gorge 
of the river is magnificent, though stern and 
desolate. It is the ravine of the Wye on a mighty 

Down the Minho i55 

scale. The rocks are steeper, grander, and more 
fantastic than those of Miller's Dale, and they are 
warmer in tone than the Derbyshire limestone. 
For leagues the Minho pursues an eager course 
through these lonely rugged glens. Here and 
there, one notes a few huts and signs of cultiva- 
tion on the stony banks ; but as the train runs on 
you enter another and wilder gorge, without any 
token of life save the hovering kite or roaming 
stonechats. In these unfrequented reaches of the 
river, far from human haunts, there must surely 
be a good store of fish. The migratory shad 
certainly abound in the Minho during the summer, 
and a few salmon come up to spawn. Mighty 
trout, as we have seen, lurk in the deep pools, and 
in the tributaries are shoals of troutlets and 
bogas. Another fish of the Minho is the escalo, 
which suggests a cross between a chub and a 
dace. Mr. Oswald Crawfurd, in * Round the 
Calendar in Portugal,' notes that the Spanish and 
Portuguese dace * is not the same as the dace of 
England, but is Lenciscus aula, or, to be quite 
correct, a Peninsular variety of L. aula,' 

I have seen escalos of a pound in weight, and 
they may be taken heavier. These fish rise to the 
fly with avidity, and though they have not the 

156 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

pluck of the brown trout, they do not tamely yield 
to the fisherman. I shall presently relate our 
experiences with escalos. As for the shad of the 
Minho, they are apparently proof against any sort 
of bait that is offered to them. I cannot say why 
this is the case, for our English shad are not so 
disobliging to the angler, and I have described 
how the sabalo (shad) of the Guadalquivir are 
caught on baited drag -Hues. But more of the 
shad presently. Besides the species above enume- 
rated, there are swarms of eels in the Minho. 

Following this grand river downwards, we broke 
our rail-journey at the town of Orense. The day 
was rainy, and the weather cooler than it had been 
for many weeks. We were driven into a caf6 to 
shelter from a heavy shower. Some youths were 
playing billiards. When the rain ceased, we 
roamed about the town, and met a man with a 
fishing-rod. I saluted him as a brother pescador, 
and he showed me his flies. They were home- 
made, but neater and smaller than those tied by 
the anglers of Matarosa. The man was not very 
communicative, but perhaps he could not under- 
stand my Spanish. 

By the river, which is wide at Orense, flowing 
rather sedately over a gravel bed, we saw some 

Down the Minho 157 

men baiting lines, which they threw out into the 
stream. I asked them what they caught, and they 
repHed : * Principally eels.' 

Our next halt was at Rivadavia, a queer little 
town on a hillside, at the confluence of the Avia 
and Minho. An electrical engineer who was 
staying at the fonda could speak some English. 
This gentleman knew very little about the fishing 
in the neighbourhood, but he said that trout 
could be caught in the Avia. This charming 
river rises in the north-east of the province of 
Orense. I cannot, however, recommend it from 
any other point of view but the scenic. We had 
one day along its pretty, verdant banks, but it 
was blank so far as the fishing was concerned. In 
appearance the stream is very alluring. It is 
shallow, clear, and abounding in runs that ought 
to be full of trout. We soon arrived at the view 
that the stream had been poached to the decima- 
tion of trout. Not a rise was seen to our flies 
after five hours' fishing upstream. I fear that the 
Avia — in its lower lengths, at any rate — is a ruined 
river. At a ferry a boatman hailed us, and I asked 
him if there were any fish left in the stream. 

* Very few,' he said, shaking his head regret- 

158 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

And I gathered that the net had been used for 
years past. Still, the beauty of the river tempted 
us on, and we had our repast upon a green islet in 
a charming reach, with Rivadavia in the distance 
perched on its hillside. 

As we were skirting a cultivated field, two girls, 
who were at work with hoes, suddenly caught 
sight of us. With a scream they flung down their 
tools and ran as though for their lives. We stood 
to watch their flight, wondering at the cause of 
their scare. Possibly they fancied that we were evil 
spirits. The Galicians are very superstitious. 
Our fishing costumes no doubt enhanced their 
terror, for they had never seen the human form in 
such fantastic attire. 

It was useless to remain at Rivadavia if we 
wished to catch fish. Therefore we paid our score 
at the fonda the next morning, and took train to 
the village of Arbo, a few leagues lower down the 
Minho. Arbo has a station overhanging the rush- 
ing river, whose torrent here is almost deafening 
in its roar. A very rustic inn and a few houses 
cluster around the railway- station. Across the 
river are groves and a few cultivated fields below 
the gray mountain ranges of Northern Portugal. 
It is a lovely retreat in the midst of some of the 

Down the Minho i59 

grandest scenery on the Minho. I think we were 
asked about half a crown each for a day's board 
and lodging. I know that these were the cheapest 
quarters that we found in the course of our 
wanderings in Spain and Portugal. 

The room commanded a grand panorama of the 
mountains and the river-valley. We made shift 
with a few hardships, for the people were kind and 
attentive, and the scenery compensated for the 
roughness of the lodging. Moreover, we had a 
good day with the trout of a lovely tributary 
which joins the Minho about a mile above the 
hamlet. Mr. L., our friend at Los Pearas, had 
fished there some years before, and the hostess 
remembered him. 

* Yes, he was the English caballero who threw 
in all the little truchas, and only kept the big 

I think the landlady feared that we might lose 
ourselves in the Galician wilds, for she insisted 
upon our being accompanied by her daughter of 
fourteen. The girl was small for her age, dark- 
eyed, olive-hued, and intelligent. She attired 
herself in festal costume, and had an exceptionally 
bright handkerchief upon her head. Her meal 
was wrapped in a handkerchief. She was soon 

i6o Fishing and Travel in Spain 

joined by a ragged boy, who assisted in carrying 
our wading-stockings and brogues, and played the 
cavaHer very prettily to the daughter of the inn. 

We reached the stream at its meeting with 
the Minho in a charming shady glen. Vines were 
trellised along the banks of the burn, and the 
chestnut-trees cast their shadow over the golden 
shallows. In a pool below a fall I saw several 
small trout rise to flies, and bogas were snapping 
at every insect that floated down. We caught no 
monsters in this fairy glen. The trout were 
nimble and golden, but the biggest that I saw 
would probably not weigh more than J pound. 
We caught some quarter-pounders and a number 
of troutlets and bogas, much to the delight and 
excitement of our young friends. The scenery was 
exquisite beyond description. We rested by a 
waterfall beneath the trees, close to a quaint mill. 
Women were washing clothes in a tributary 
brook. It was a delightful picture. The children 
dabbled barefooted in the river ; the gay colours of 
the girl's dress gave life and beauty to the scene 
of gray rock, drooping boughs, and tumbling 

The heat at mid-day was almost insupportable. 
We were glad to escape for a time from the sun's 

Down the Minho i6i 

scorching rays, and to rest in the inn until the 
shadows of the mountains fell across the Minho. 
Then we went down to the mouth of the tributary. 
The evening was peaceful, and a lingering golden 
light rested upon the Minho. We forded the burn 
near its mouth, and made our way by the brawling 
main river, by whirling rapids and weird, sombre 
pools, till we reached a kind of weir, built of stone. 
There were narrow channels for the current to 
flow through, and in each of these was a fixed bag- 
net, shaped like an eel-basket. These traps were 
set for the sabalos, or shad. 

Below the weir was a shallow glide, broad 
and fairly swift, with trailing weed growing from 
the gravel. This seemed a likely haunt of trout. 
I cast upstream. A rise ! I cast again and 
hooked a fish. He swam for the weeds, and fought 
bravely, though not with the strength of a trout. 
When I brought him to the bankside, I saw that I 
had caught an escalo of about | pound. He was 
a coarse, dull-looking fish, not unlike our British 

A shout from my wife brought me to her side. 
She was wading in a sharp scour, and had hooked 
a heavy fish. I have never seen the little greenheart 


1 62 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

rod bend as it did at that moment. The fish had 
rushed into midstream. 

* Let him run !' I cried. * He's a grand fish, 
whatever he is !' 

The rod still bent almost double, though the 
line was flying from the winch. A splash broke 
the water 20 yards away, a splash that set our 
hearts beating. Mercy, what a fish ! Was it a 
salmon, a shad, or one of the mighty Minho trout ? 
We shall never know. The rod flew back to the 
straight, and the line came mournfully limp 
to the bank. A grand fish lost ! My wife was 

I returned to my run below the weir. The 
escalos were madly on the rise. They came up two 
and three at a time, and contended with each other 
for my flies. I pulled them out as fast as I could 
cast, escalos of i pound, and bogas weighing 
rather less. The bank was strewn with them ; 
the stream bubbled with rises. I believe I could 
have filled a sack with these rapacious fish had 
I stayed for an hour at the weir. But my wife's 
adventure with the big fish stimulated me to try 
the fly over the scour below. 

Darkness was creeping over the hills. The weird, 
sombre pools were black. I fished down to the 

Down the Minho 163 

ford across the burn, picking up bogas and escalos 
as I went. From the small stream I took a few 
trout. None of them were more than J pound. 

It was almost too dark to see our flies upon the 
water. We tried to ford the tributary, but our feet 
sank in the ooze, and we had to retreat to the bank. 

Where was the crossing-place ? It was difficult 
to find it in the gathering gloom. At last we had 
to tramp up to a railway-bridge that spanned the 
river. We found the track through the trellises of 
vines that led to the terraced highroad. Owls 
called from the chestnut glades, and large dusky 
moths flitted by. We could still see the peaks of 
the mountains of Portugal. The night breeze 
brought the cry of the river, and as we neared the 
dim lights of the hamlet of Arbo, we heard a 
peasant trolling a GaHcian ditty. He sang of the 
joys of the bandit's life. Truly, we were in a 
country of beauty, adventure, and romance. 

II — 2 



Shad-fishing in inland waters is still a flourish- 
ing industry in the Valley of the Minho, and 
every riverside hamlet has its Pescadores, who 
live by netting and snaring the fish during the 
warm months of the year. We spent several 
days among the fisher-folk of the upper lengths of 
the Minho, and watched their modes of capturing 

At Arbo there is a little colony of shad fisher- 
men, who have erected solid stone piers, about 
a yard apart, across the Minho, with channels 
between them for the passage of fish. In each of 
these artificial channels, or guts, a trap-net with 
a large aperture, and tapering almost to a point at 
the end, is set and secured by chains. 

One of these trapping - places on the Spanish 
side of the river had three piers, built at a height 
of about 10 feet above the green, rushing water. 

The Shad of Arbo 165 

It was the fishery of the village padre, who spent 
many hours of each day upon the piers, smoking 
scores of cigarettes, and occasionally raising one 
of his traps to see whether a fish had entered it. 

The priest was one of the most successful fisher- 
men in the village. Now and again he caught a 
brace of shad in one net, and it was interesting to 
watch him lift out the great silvery fish on to the 
pier, skip nimbly with his burden over the stones, 
and lay his captures in the shade of a big tree. 
Surveying the shad with an expression of delight, 
he would light another cigarette, wash his hands 
with sand and water, and return to his platform, 
to lower the net again, and to await the advent of 
another shoal of migratory fish. 

My friend the padre knew the ways of shad, and 
held the opinion that the mouth of the net should 
be concealed partially by a green bough. He was 
always careful to adjust the bough before sinking 
the trap ; and as he appeared to take more fish 
than his neighbour on the Portuguese bank of the 
river, this precaution may have been the secret of 
his success. 

He told me that the green branch looked like a 
water-weed to a travelling shad, and that the fish 
swam without suspicion through the twigs and 

1 66 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

into the net. I noticed that in most cases the 
shad were dead when taken from the trap. No 
doubt the pressure of the powerful current, com- 
bined with their inability to open freely their gills 
in the small end of the bag-net, soon suffocated 
the struggling fish. 

The padre, and a carabinero who was on the 
watch for contrabandists from Portugal, were 
much amused when I said that I would like to 
take a photograph of two freshly-caught shad to 
show to my friends in England. 

No bait has been yet discovered which will 
lure shad from the Minho. I asked the natives 
whether anyone had ever caught a shad with any 
sort of natural or artificial bait. * No, nada, 
nada I' There is apparently no known bait for 
the Minho shad. But in the Guadalquivir, at 
Cordova and Seville, these fish will take various 

Shad can be attracted to the surface by bright 
lights used at night. As the fish come up, dazed 
and off their guard, they are scooped out in large 
landing-nets. I should say that the sabalos of the 
Minho average about 4 pounds in weight, but 
they are taken up to 12 pounds. May and 
June are the months when the shad most 

The Shad of Arbo 167 

resort to the upper pools of the river. We had 
shad for dinner at Arb6 and elsewhere. The flesh 
is of a delicate flavour, but one must exercise 
caution to avoid swallowing the small bones. 
Sabalo is a favourite dish in Spain and Portugal. 
It is served up cold, with sliced onions and 

It requires some agility to skip from one of the 
piers to another. They are only about a yard 
or 4 feet apart, but the wild current flows deep 
and swift between them, and a false step or a 
stumble would send the luckless fisherman into a 
fierce rush of water, that would buffet and toss the 
most powerful swimmer, and probably suck him 
down. It makes one almost giddy to stand on 
one of these towers or piers, watching the hurry- 
ing torrent that breaks against them, and flows 
through the channels in a green shoot of water. 
Lowering and raising the trap-nets are opera- 
tions attended with peril. The nets are secured 
to the stonework with chains. These piers are 
made wedge-shaped, to break the force of the 

As I have never seen an English shad, I can- 
not say whether the shad of Spain differ in any 
way from our own. The Welsh name for the 

1 68 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

fish is ysgadan, i,e,, herring ; for shad are very near 
relatives to the herring, if they are not actually 
the same fish. The two kinds of shad that 
frequent parts of our coast, and ascend some of 
the rivers to spawn, are known as the twaite and 
the allice. Now, twaite are taken with the rod and 
line, and it is curious that the shad of the Minho 
cannot be tempted with baits. If I lived by the 
banks of that stream, I would spend some time in 
endeavouring to lure sabalo to the hook. Surely 
there must be some dainty morsel or another that 
would induce shad to overcome their indifference. 
The sport with these Minho shad would be 
exciting. I handled a brace of sabalo taken from 
the padre's net, and one of them was between 
8 and g pounds, while the other was about 
10 pounds in weight. In these heavy waters such 
big fish would make a mighty struggle for liberty, 
when hooked by an angler. 

I tried lobworms on a leger, one hot afternoon, 
at Arb6. The rocks by the Minho were so scorch- 
ing that I believe one could have fried bacon upon 
them. There was not a stray breath of wind 
moving, nor was there any shade by the big pool 
below the village. The strain of the current on 
my line bent the middle and top joints of a 


The Shad of Arbd 169 

salmon-rod, and a very heavy bullet was needed 
to keep the bait on the bottom. I had not 
waited for many minutes, when there was a sharp 
jerk at the rod-top. Seizing the butt, I struck 
sharply. But I was too late; the fish had 
dropped the bait. I threw in again, and kept 
the line between my finger and thumb. Another 
tug ! I struck again, and felt the plunging of a 

' It can scarcely be a shad,' I thought as I 
wound in the line. 

It was not a shad. Our experience of attempted 
shad-fishing on the Guadalquivir was renewed. 
My capture was an eel, weighing about J pound. 
I threw the wriggling beast to a boy who was 
watching me, and put on a fresh lobworm. Eels, 
nothing but eels, came to my hook. I could have 
caught a dozen or so of these small eels. How- 
ever, three contented me. There seemed no likeli- 
hood of catching a shad. My seat on the shelving 
rock was almost as hot as the grill of a West End 

I went panting to the shade, and flung myself 
upon the green grass. Bogas were rising to flies 
in the bay before me. Swifts skimmed to and fro. 
Beyond the roaring, swirling, foaming Minho, the 

ijo Fishing and Travel in Spain 

stern mountain heights of Portugal seemed to 
touch the burning blue sky. The padre stood 
on his tower in the river, watching his nets, 
and the soldier was at his lookout, smoking a 
cigarette. It was our last afternoon at beautiful 



TuY is a small picturesque town on the Spanish 
bank of the Minho, about fifteen miles from what 
George Borrow would term 'the disemboguement ' 
of that river into the ocean. As * disembogue ' is 
used by the classic Addison, we need not quarrel 
with the word, which is certainly a goodly one 
upon the tongue and a long one to write. Before 
disemboguing itself, the Minho flows in a serener 
mood through a fertile valley, bounded by the hills 
of Pontevedrain Spain and the ranges of Northern 

Tuy has a grand position for a view of the river 
and the hills. Richard Ford says that the town 
is a fishing-place. It is certainly well supplied 
with netsmen, but the Minho at Tuy does not 
invite the rod fisherman. 

A few letters were awaiting us at the post-office. 
The official was gracious and attentive. 

172 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

* You have much correspondence,' he said, with 
a bow. 

If the receipt of three or four letters constitutes 
a claim to social distinction, we were certainly 
persons of importance. I dare say the good man 
mistook me for another rich mining speculator, 
fresh from opulent Britain, and all agog to buy up 
a mountain-side. Let it be said, however, that 
had he known us for two literary folk, the post- 
master would have shown us no less respect. 
Spain is one of those lamentably improgressive 
and uncommercial countries where the artist, the 
author, and the journahst, be they even unable to 
keep a gig or a motor-cycle, are still esteemed as 
worthy and profitable members of the community. 
Time may correct this tendency towards misplaced 
respect. 'Literature, reading!' sneered a Jew 
merchant of London in my hearing. * My friend, 
the best reading for me is on cheques and five- 
pound notes ! ' Well, such frank Philistinism as that 
is superb. In Spain, by the way, the paper-money 
bears the portraits of men of letters and painters. 

Our reception at the fonda of Tuy was less agree- 
able than the interview with the postmaster. 
Perhaps the hostess and her daughters suspected 
us for Portuguese immigrants. They do not love 

Around Tuy 173 

their neighbours in Tuy. At any rate, we were 
refused luncheon to take out with us on a fishing 
excursion. Such an innovation was appaUing. 
Dios ! we must be mad to ask for such a favour ! 
However, there are caballeros and sefioras in Tuy. 
I found a very poHte Civil Guard in a cafe. 

* Sefior,' I said, ' I am an English stranger, and 
a fisherman for recreation. Can you tell me where 
I can catch trout hereabouts ?' 

The officer reflected for a moment. 

* Yes, certainly I know where there are truchas,' 
he replied. 

We were counselled to follow the highroad to the 
east, for a mile or so, until we reached a bridge 
over a stream. That was the river for trout. The 
designation Civil Guard is a fair one. These smart, 
intelligent, and obliging custodians of life and pro- 
perty are a credit to Spain. They are ex-soldiers 
of high character, trained to arms, and used to dis- 
cipline. By their efforts the country has been 
almost freed from the terror of a powerfully organ- 
ized brigandage. These guards often showed us 
kindness and rendered ready service. Upon the 
only occasion when I offered one of them a * tip,' 
he politely replied that it was against the rules to 
accept any reward from the public. 

174 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Upon the morning of the day following our 
arrival at this curious little border town, we went 
out early to find the stream to which the Civil 
Guard had directed us. Although the hour was 
eight, and the sun had not reached its highest 
point in the dazzling sky, the heat was great, and 
the exertion of walking and carrying our fishing 
paraphernalia was not wholly enjoyable. The 
road lay straight and glaring before us, and there 
was no shade on either side. We were glad to find 
ourselves in a bosky glade by the green banks of a 
singularly limpid stream. The verdure was fresh 
and restful to the eyes. Chestnut and aspen trees 
formed a forest in a secluded vale. There was 
no track by the river. We made a path through 
ferns and sedgy swamps, and looked for an open 
length of the translucent stream whereon we might 
cast a fly. But the banks were thickly grown with 
trees and plants, and there seemed very little chance 
of fly fishing. However, with short lines, we cut in 
under the trees, and fished upstream. 

The omnipresent boga rose at once, though not 
in a ravenous manner. On a golden shoal, a few 
fish flashed to the bank before I could cast. They 
may have been trout. I cannot say that I saw a 
single trout in this delightful little river, though it 

Around Tuy 175 

was well adapted for the nimble trucha. Besides 
bogas, we noted some red-finned fish that looked 
like roach. But even these were easily scared by 
our approach, for the river was one of the clearest 
I have ever seen, and the sunshine through the 
boughs revealed every stone upon its bed. 

Golden orioles were numerous in this wooded 
vale. We heard their voices on either side of the 
stream. Wood doves cooed softly in the tall trees, 
and a kingfisher shot down the water's edge. Jays 
screeched an alarm note as we invaded the solitude 
of this lovely woodland, and plunged into its most 
secret dingfes. 

Fishing was futile. The sky was of the deepest, 
hottest blue, and the heat was increasing. We sat 
down on the sward close to the stream and listened 
to the golden orioles and the doves. Suddenly I 
observed a swelling wave in the clear, shallow pool 
at our feet. The wave sped across the river and 
lapped the bank. Then up came the head and 
shoulders of a large otter. He looked us full in 
the face for an instant, and with a plunge, he sank 
back and swam rapidly away under the water. No 
doubt he had intended to land on our side of the 
stream, for he came straight across from the 
opposite bank. The presence of an otter in the 

176 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

stream proved that it held fair-sized fish, though 
probably the creature's chief prey would be eels 
and frogs. 

* A blank day, but a pleasant one,' I said as we 
turned away from the river. * Times have changed 
for anglers at Tuy since Richard Ford wrote his 
" Handbook for Spain." ' 



Bright sunshine accompanied us into Portugal. 
We were nearing the longest day, and the weather 
was hopelessly * settled.' Think of it, luckless 
Londoners, in the murky alleys east of St. Paul's ! 
While you were languishing for warmth and sun- 
light we were inclined to rail at the clear skies and 
the benignant sun. Well, the fates were rather 
cynical. As soon as we reached a big town, 
such as Oporto, for example, down came the rain 
steadily, and we had visions of freshened rivers 
alive with rising trout. When we returned to the 
wilds, the weather changed at once to fair and 
cloudless, the rivers ran down to a low level, and 
became finer every day, and trout hid themselves 
and were coy. 

North Portugal is Paradise. We speak of it as 
we found it in this golden June weather. And, 
honestly, is there any other part of Europe where 
177 12 

178 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

the mass of the people enjoy a serener life ? I am 
told that the Italians are more gay. The capacity 
for exuberant joyousness is not so manifest in the 
Portuguese race. But in the enjoyment of a quiet, 
even happiness the rural folk of Portugal appear 
to be the most highly blessed among the peasantry 
of the Continent. This is, perhaps, not the occa- 
sion for tracing the source of this sweet content- 
ment. It is due to climate, environment, tempera- 
ment, and, by no means least, to the system of 
land tenure. These people are yeomen, stout, 
independent, and cheerful in the tilling and 
improving of a soil in which they realize that they 
possess a share. If anyone wishes for a sunny 
picture of the peasant proprietor's life, he will find 
it in the province of Entre-Douro-e-Minho, to the 
north of Oporto. 

We entered Portugal at Caminha, at the mouth 
of the broad Minho. The chief river is joined 
here by several minor streams, which flow down 
from the mountains on either side of the noble 
estuary. Barmouth and the Mawddach estuary 
will give an idea of the view at Caminha on a 
smaller scale. Salmon, shad, and other fish are 
netted here to a considerable extent. The salmon- 
fishing is, however, decaying, and I think that 

June Days in Lusitania 179 

the cause must be sought in the overnetting, 
the destruction of parr by netsmen and rod 
anglers, and the depredations of poachers in the 
higher pools of the river. Pollution of the water 
is certainly not accountable for the diminution 
of salmon, for the Minho is pure from its source 
to the sea. Few rivers in Europe could vie with 
this in the production of salmon if proper preserva- 
tion was enforced. 

At the railway-station, as we stepped from the 
train, two women took possession of our bags and 
fishing-rods. One of them was a perfect example 
of Portuguese loveliness. She had dark brown 
hair under her pink head-kerchief, a pair of merry 
and tender brown eyes, an olive, golden skin, 
neither ruddy nor sallow, and well-shaped features. 
I felt ashamed when these women, who are 
employed as porters, poised our bags on their 
graceful heads and strode off to the town. It is 
difficult to overcome one's prejudice against heavy 
labour for women. And yet these Portuguese 
women certainly do not appear to suifer in health, 
nor to lose their physical charm, through active 
muscular exertion. I tried to take the rods from 
one of the women. It was of no use ; they would 
not allow us to carry a single article. Walking 

12 — 2 

i8o Fishing and Travel in Spain 

swiftly and gracefully on their shapely bare feet, 
they preceded us up the road, laughing and 
chatting together. 

We learned that the beauty was a sailor's wife. 
The good man was on a long voyage to South 
America. Was she dependent upon her earnings 
as a porter ? She seemed well nourished and 
cheerful. As I spoke not a word of Portuguese, I 
left the women to use their own judgment in 
selecting a fonda. They led us to a house in the 
main- street of sleepy-looking shops, and went up 
a staircase. The hostess could not speak much 
Spanish, but we contrived to make terms, and I 
paid the porters. The handsome woman said 
something to the hostess, and I gathered that she 
was offering to take us to the house of a British 
resident. We agreed to this, but informed the 
landlady that we would like a meal as soon as 

The Portuguese fare better, on the whole, than 
their Spanish neighbours. After crossing the 
border from the plains of Salamanca, and through 
the stony defiles of the Douro, one is struck 
by the richness of the vegetation in Northern 
Portugal. It is almost like entering the tropics. 
The sheltered vales are green, the slopes are 

June Days in Lusitania i8i 

grown with vines and fruit-trees, and the gardens 
are well tilled and productive. Fruit was ripe in 
the orchards. We feasted upon huge strawberries 
and beautiful cherries. 

The Portuguese bed is a curiosity. It is about 
a foot from the floor, very spacious, and as hard 
as a stone. The bedding seems to be stuffed 
tightly with sawdust or chaff, and the pillows are 
unyielding. No doubt such couches are the most 
healthy, but they are not luxurious. One arises 
with a bruised sensation in the muscles. It is 
different in Spain, where the spring-beds are 
exceedingly comfortable. 

After dinner we found our guide waiting to 
conduct us to the house of the British resident. 
She led us along the main-street to a side- 
thoroughfare of good houses. The street was 
clean and bright, and the dwellings were pictu- 
resque. A charming lady received us, and spoke 
in our own tongue. How strange it seemed to hear 
English spoken ! Her husband was not in, but he 
would be pleased to see us. We were invited to 
return later on in the evening. 

We ascended a hill, and saw the sun sinking in 
the ocean. It was a serene summer's evening, and 
the sea was blue and still as far as the eye could 

1 82 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

reach. Shadows lay in the coombs sloping 
down from the stern hills, and across the salt 
flats, where cattle were roaming. The air was 
perfumed with wild-thyme and the salt odour of 
the sea. We could trace the Minho from a dark 
gorge to its meeting with the ocean, and on the 
wide estuary were the craft of fishermen. The 
burden of a plaintive song reached us from a 
cottage below the knoll. 

The evening was spent in the company of the 
British resident, his family, and the family of an 
English Protestant missionary. Everyone spoke 
in English, and we passed a pleasant time. The 
world goes very well at Caminha. There is no 
bustle, no sordid strife to grow rich, and no 
palpable want among the poorer people. One 
could live very contentedly at Caminha with a 
sailing boat, a gun, and a fishing-rod. There are 
several trout-streams within reach of the little 
town, besides sea-fishing. The estuary would 
afford fine sailing, and the roads are very fair for 
cycling. There is wild-fowHng in the district, and 
rough shooting on the mountains. 

As for the climate, it is never very cold, and the 
heat at midsummer is tempered with breezes from 
the Atlantic. There is a fair rainfall in North 

June Days in Lusitania 183 

Portugal, which tends to keep the country fresh 
and green. The rain is heavy while it falls, and 
the weather soon clears. It is not * chronic,' as 
an Englishman remarked, when describing the 
rainfall of our country during 1903-4. Then, the 
air ! It is enticing, odorous, and health-giving, a 
happy blend of sea and mountain breezes. 

The Romans were completely reconciled to 
their existence in this peaceful region of Lusitania. 
They found a land like to their own, a land flow- 
ing with wine and glowing with sunshine. The 
conquerors settled in the happy vales, and felt no 
yearning for the country of their birth. Bacchus 
and his friend Lusus came here and founded a 
colony. The juice of the grape ran from the press 
in a purple stream ; they discovered an elysium, 
and called it Lusitania, the land of Lusus. Mr. 
Oswald Crawfurd tells us that the Portuguese 
have preserved the traditions, the legends, and 
the speech of the Romans. * Sonnets have been 
written in Portuguese that will pass for Latin,' 
says this author. 

But I have wandered from the gathering ot 
British compatriots in the house of Mr. F. at 
Caminha. Our host was in charge of the Atlantic 
cable off this coast. He told us of the breakages 

184 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

that sometimes occur, when the mighty wire link 
between the continents is not strong enough to 
resist the ceaseless assault of *the multitudinous 
seas.' Our imagination could scarcely convey an 
idea of the tedious and difficult operation of 
repairing this girdle round the earth. It was 
altogether too big a matter for our lay intelligence. 
The men who lay cables, and build railways, and 
construct viaducts, seem to me almost superhuman 
beings in their daring and skill. One should be 
humble in their presence. 

A few years ago, there lived at Caminha a 
gentleman who held the post of British Vice- 
Consul. He was a keen angler. I had heard of 
him in Avila, and we hoped to make his acquaint- 
ance. Unfortunately, he had left Portugal. Mr. 
F. knew him well, and described his enthusiasm 
for trout-fishing. He related how Mr. S. would 
tramp many miles to throw a fly on one of the 
numerous clear streams that water this glorious 
territory. There was no one who knew more 
about the fishing in the neighbourhood than Mr. S. 

One day this angler was fishing a stream, a few 
leagues from Caminha, when a wild-boar thrust 
his head over a projecting crag, and had a good 
steady stare at the invader of his solitary domain. 

June Days in Lusitania 185 

Mr. S. wished that a gun instead of a rod had 
been in his hand at that moment. 

To the south of Caminha is the port of Vianna 
de Castello, at the mouth of the Rio Lima. Mr. 
Edward Dodgson, who has left very few corners 
of the Peninsula unexplored, tells me that he has 
walked the whole length of the beautiful Lima 
Valley. He describes the scenery as enchanting. 
There are trout in the river. The boys of the 
villages spend their summer days in the pastime 
of diving for trout. Now, diving for pearls is one 
thing, but pursuing trout under water, after the 
fashion of the otter, is another affair. My readers 
will tax me with drawing the longbow, and 
attempting to palm off travellers' tales upon them. 
Well, Mr. Dodgson was disposed to discredit the 
story of these human otters, until he saw them 
with his own eyes. And if further evidence is 
necessary, let me refer the curious to an interest- 
ing account of this mode of fish-capture contained 
in Mr. Oswald Crawfurd's * Round the Calendar 
in Portugal,' pp. 24, 25, and also to an illustration 
of this primitive trout-fishing in the same volume. 

These amphibious Portuguese peasant lads are 
just expert trout-ticklers, plus a cultivated capacity 
for remaining many seconds under the water. 

1 86 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Any fairly strong diver can bring up half a dozen 
stones from the bottom of a pool lo feet deep. 
An adept at trout-groping can secure his fish 
during an equal lapse of seconds. The scared 
trout make for the ledges, and holts under 
boulders, and the diver deftly tickles and catches 

Between Caminha and Vianna are the villages 
of Ancora, Affife, and Arcosa, all upon the railway. 
Each of these places is beautiful. The coast is 
bright, with reefs, sandy bays, fishermen's cots, 
and vineyards and grain-fields down to the verge 
of the ocean. From the shore rise heathy hills, 
and bold bluffs project to the sea. At the villages 
are boarding-houses, which provide lodging for 
summer visitors from Oporto. The limitless 
ocean thunders along this coast in stormy 
weather, changing its colour from violet to blue, 
and from blue to green. Many a fisher-lad has 
gazed across the foam, and yearned to follow in 
the track of the bold adventurers of old, whose 
passion for exploring built up the prosperity of 

In the river of Ancora there are big trout. It 
is a clear stream, flowing through a district of 
woodland, orchard, and vineyard in its middle and 

June Days in Lusitania 187 

lower lengths, while its upper waters run between 
uncultivated slopes and open banks. Mr. F.'s son 
kindly offered to accompany us to the Ancora 
River, where he had fished once or twice. It 
was a favourite stream of the aforementioned 

We took train to Ancora on a hot afternoon, 
carrying our waders with us. A young man of the 
village was engaged to bear our traps, and we 
threaded our way through luxuriant vines and 
fruit-trees to the sparkling river. I was soon 
wading in a pool below a weir, where a few small 
trout rose lazily to my flies. Blazing sunlight 
fell upon the river, and fish could be seen darting 
from the shallows. My wife made photographs 
of two picturesque peasant women as we roamed 
along the well-cultivated banks. At a farm we 
bought about a dozen oranges for a copper 
coin, and slaked our thirst with their grateful 

We came to a swift, narrow shallow, with high 
banks on either side. Some good trout were 
rising here. I cast over them, and hooked a small 
one immediately. Then I played and lost a nice 
trout of quite a pound in weight. After this 
mishap the run only afforded bogas, which rose 

1 88 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

hungrily. A little further up the river we caught 
two or three more small trout. 

A boy came down the stream, and bargained for 
an artificial fly in exchange for a quantity of 
cherries. Our guide had already gathered a 
number of cherries from an orchard, after obtain- 
ing the ready permission of the woman who owned 
it. We had fruit galore that afternoon. We were 
not so fortunate in obtaining trout. The sunshine 
was remorseless, and the fish were exceedingly 
shy. Nevertheless, the Ancora River should 
show good sport in favourable weather, and I 
believe that there are plenty of fish in its higher 

It was growing dark when we returned to 
Ancora, whence we decided to follow the high- 
road to Caminha. Our gilly diverted us on the 
way back by his rigorous endeavour to save us 
the annoyance of being followed by inquisitive 
urchins. Whenever a boy left his play and his 
companions to join our party, the vigilant youth 
promptly dealt him a stroke with the handle of the 
landing-net. One after another these youngsters 
dropped back, with their sleeves to their eyes, 
uttering loud wails at the attack of our body- 
guard. I must say that we were not willing 

June Days in Lusitania 189 

accessories to this assault and battery. The 
offence was not serious enough to merit chastise- 
ment. But it appeared to be done in our service 
and for our comfort, like the charge of police to 
clear the roadway when a pageant is approaching. 

After leaving Ancora we met several parties of 
field-labourers, men and women, returning from 
their day's toil. How gay and artistic was their 
dress, and how comely were the wholesome tawny 
and olive faces ! They stopped their singing to 
wish us good-night, and resumed the ballad as 
they strode on, their voices dying away at a bend 
in the road. This is a land that makes one glad, 
a climate that inspires to song. Almost every lad 
can play on the guitar or the mandolin, and all the 
swains and lasses know how to dance gracefully. 
Perhaps the England of Herrick's day was like 
this, ' a nest of singing-birds,' a country with a 
peasantry of whom it might without satire be 
written in the words of Gray : ' How jocund did 
they drive their team afield !' 

We went on, in the growing darkness, by the 
sound of the waves, through gloomy fir-woods, 
where the gnome-calls of owls aroused the heavy, 
brooding stillness. The sky quivered with the lights 
of millions of stars. From the swamps came the 

I90 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

continuous rumbling chorus of the big green frogs, 
and in the thickets night-birds lifted a few sweet 
treble notes to this sonorous bass. What a rare 
and beautiful night ! It seemed sinful to leave this 
loveHness to the stars, and to shut out the scene 
from our room. When shall we revel again in the 
witchery of a midsummer night in Lusitania ? 

But we were tired from the heat and the exertion 
of the long day. The last mile seemed lengthy, 
and we were glad to see the lights of Caminha and 
the dark broad estuary under the starry sky. 

The tributary that joins the Minho on the left 
bank at Caminha is tidal in its lower length. For 
a mile or two it winds through salt-marshes, the 
resort of snipe in the winter, but higher up it flows 
through a wild ravine, and forms several fine falls. 
The pools below these cascades are full of trout. 
They can hardly be reached on foot, but vehicles 
can be hired cheaply in Caminha. 

We did not fish the Lima, but I heard it well 
recommended as a trout-stream. In its lower 
reaches this river is navigable. The Lima rises in 
Spain, in the province of Orense, near the town of 
Sandianes, where there is a large laguna. It enters 
Portugal at Lindoso, and at Ponte de Lima the 
angler will find quarters. The scenery of this 

June Days in Lusitania 191 

river- valley is superb, and the people are hospitable 
and very picturesque. A number of streams flow 
to the sea between Caminha and Oporto, and in 
most of them the fly fisherman may expect sport. 
South of Oporto is Oliveira, a little town in a well- 
watered region. There are several trout-streams 
within reach of Oliveira, which is mentioned as a 
fishing-resort in ' Round the Calendar in Portugal ' 
by Mr. Oswald Crawfurd. 



Oporto is one of the most beautiful cities in 
Europe. It has won from Camoens the title of 
* the Proud,' and it deserves the distinction. The 
position of the city is romantic, at the widening of 
the gorge of the wild Douro, and commanding 
wide prospects of the Atlantic Ocean, purple 
mountains, and luxuriant vineyards, grain-fields 
and groves. Terrace rises above terrace on the 
sides of the ravine, and a handsome suspension- 
bridge spans the brown river. 

We spent three days in the Wine City, and 
made a trip to the sea at Sao Joao da Foz, a 
village recalling the minor watering-places of our 
own South Coast. The day was stormy, and the 
waves broke high at the perilous bar at the mouth 
of the Douro, while black clouds broke at intervals, 
and rain fell with a roar upon this wind-beaten 


Trout Streams and Coarse Fish Rivers 1 93 

Our fishing-tackle had suffered considerable 
dilapidation during our tour. Four months of 
hard wear had worn holes in my canvas brogues, 
which were well seasoned at the beginning of our 
peregrination, having done much work in Wales 
and Yorkshire. At Seville I took the brogues to 
a shoemaker in the Plaza de la Constitucion, who 
announced on a sign, in English, that boots were 
' repaired with invisible patches.' This son of St. 
Crispin was an excellent workman. He put the 
neatest of patches on the canvas, stitched up the 
leather soles, and pipe-clayed the brogues. The 
leather parts he painted and varnished. I suppose 
the good man thought that these shoes were for 
street and park wear, a new style in English 
footgear, for he took great pains to make the 
worn-out brogues look smart. When I told him 
that they were for use in the water, he shook his 
head in utter mystification, and remarked that he 
'could not understand.' His charge was most 
moderate, and he actually insisted upon presenting 
me with a pair of old wooden lasts upon which he 
had carefully stretched the brogues. 

I tried to make good some of our losses in tackle 
while we were in Oporto. There is tackle on 
sale at a toy-shop in one of the chief streets. 


194 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Fishing-tackle and toys go together in the 
Peninsula, which suggests that the angler is 
regarded as a child needing a plaything rather 
than as a sportsman requiring serviceable para- 
phernalia. The selection of fishing-tackle in 
Oporto was of the poorest description. Who 
dumps this inferior tackle into Spain and Portugal ? 
It is not made locally. One might suppose that 
gut is plentiful, good, and cheap in Spain. I can 
only say that the fisherman will regret it, if he 
fails to take his own casts and flies into the 
country. Most of the gut used throughout the 
world is produced in Spain, where its manufacture 
is a big and thriving industry. Yet I could not 
buy a decent cast in the country. You see hanks 
of gut displayed occasionally in the windows of 
grocers' shops in the large towns. It is coarse and 
of inferior quality ; there is apparently no local 
demand for medium and fine gut. The hooks 
that I bought in Spain and Portugal were about 
No. 5 size, according to the new scale, and 
mounted upon gut strong enough to lift a five- 
pound fish. These are supplied for trout-fishing. 
They are useless in a clear river, and too big under 
any conditions. The high quality of our English- 
made fishing-tackle excited the admiration and 

Trout Streams and Coarse Fish Rivers 1 95 

envy of the Pescadores in all parts of the 
Peninsula. More than once I was asked if I 
would sell some flies. 

The fisherman can enjoy all-round sport in 
Portugal and in some parts of Spain. From Oporto 
he can reach by the railway many trout-streams, and 
rivers abounding with barbel, bogas and escalos. 
The Douro is perhaps the finest river for barbel- 
fishing to be found in Europe. The Spanish and 
Portuguese barbel is somewhat different from our 
barbel of the Trent and Thames. It is a hand- 
somer fish, and not so coarse. You see barbel 
exposed in many of the markets, and they are 
fairly good eating. When freshly caught, the 
Spanish barbel is more golden in colour on the 
underside than our own, and the scales are less 
thick. I am unable to give the Latin name for 
the barbel of Spain and Portugal. 

In travelling from Salamanca to Oporto the 
railway ride is through the Valley of the Douro. 
This swirling brown stream teems with barbel in 
many of its lengths. At the frontier town of Barco 
d'Alva, where one's luggage is examined, we were 
detained for about one hour at the little station in 
the savage ravine. Two officers searched our 
bags, and when they looked at the rods in their 


196 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

cases, they began to discuss with each other in an 
animated manner. By dint of a little Portuguese 
and a few phrases in Spanish, I learned from these 
gentlemen that the river below abounded with 
heavy barbel. They were both anglers. No 
doubt they fished with tight lines and long 
bamboo rods, after the fashion of the shad-fishers 
of Seville, for they spoke of losing many big fish 
in the rushing water. 

* How much is a rod like this ?' asked one of the 
officers, handling my salmon-rod with a keen 

I told him that such a rod would cost about 
50 pesetas. He raised his eyebrows in astonish- 
ment, and passed the fishing-rod to his companion. 
They were evidently fascinated by the springiness 
and balance of the greenheart sixteen-footer. Such 
a rod had never been seen by them.. I wrote down 
the address of the maker and gave it to the senior 
officer. I wonder whether he has become the 
possessor of an English fishing-rod ? If so, he has 
probably brought a few of those big barbel to hand. 

I would have liked to spend a few days at 
Barco d'Alva by the side of one of those eddying 
pools, with a leger and plenty of lobworms for 
ground bait. Barbel-fishing has occasionally come 

Trout Streams and Coarse Fish Rivers 1 97 

in my way, but I have never followed the sport 
with the real zest of the Thames enthusiast. 
Perhaps some of our barbel experts, who think 
nothing of spending a five-pound note upon two 
or three days' baiting and fishing in a Thames 
swim, may one day travel to the Douro, and show 
the natives how to lure and take the mighty fish 
of that river. 

The river is deep, strong, and swift, with pools 
here and there that look very tempting to the 
coarse fisherman. In this rocky solitude and 
desolation many rare birds have their nesting- 
places among the crags. As the train runs on, you 
see only a hut or two for miles along the ravines. 
There is no overfishing here, and no well-educated 
barbel, but almost virgin water, and fish of an 
ingenuous nature, who would not sulk and turn 
up their noses at a lobworm. 

I had one morning by the Douro at Zamora, in 
Spain, and tried for barbel with the orthodox 
leger. The river is wide here, and less eager than 
in its passage through the gorges of Portugal. It 
has the appearance of a good coarse fishing water, 
and I saw several anglers at work close to the 
town. They had the usual bamboo rods, coarse 
tackle, and rough, home-made floats. The 

iqS Fishing and Travel in Spain 

favourite bait was a piece of cooked meat. One of 
these Pescadores was fishing above the picturesque 
bridge below the walls of the town. I asked him 
what he caught, and he answered : ' Barbos.' 

Barbel seem to be fairly plentiful here, for I saw 
them on the stalls in the market. I had no 
success in the swims that I tried above the bridge 
at Zamora. The morning was heavy and sultry, 
with thunder brewing. I sat in the broiling heat 
for about three hours, and during that time I 
had not so much as a nibble at my bait. Fish 
continually broke the surface of the water in my 
swim. What were they ? The landlord of the 
hotel said that there were no truchas in the river, 
but these fish rose to flies. I tried in vain to 
catch sight of the rising fish. I was using my 
salmon-rod, so I changed the tackle, put on a cast 
of small flies, and whipped for these mysterious 
fish that rose to every passing insect. My effort 
to secure one of them failed, and my curiosity 
remains unsatisfied. Perhaps they were bogas, the 
irrepressible bogas that frequent most of the rivers 
of this part of the Peninsula. 

A mighty river is this Douro. Rising in the 
province of Soria, it waters Old Castile and Le6n, 
and flows westward to Portugal and the sea. It 

Trout Streams and Coarse Fish Rivers 1 99 

has numberless tributaries, and some of them are 
goodly rivers. Some of the affluents, such as the 
Tormes, have a reputation as trout-streams. 

Our fishing experiences in Spain and Portugal 
came to an end in June, 1902. We had travelled 
many hundreds of miles in the Peninsula, fished in 
rivers good, indifferent, and bad, from the Basque 
Provinces to scorching Andalusia, and from Castile 
to Leon, Galicia, and Portugal. There are rivers 
almost innumerable that we did not visit, but of 
some of these I can speak from hearsay. In 
Asturias there are many trout-streams, watering 
this alpine and romantic kingdom, and falling into 
the Bay of Biscay. The Cares, the Navia, the 
Nalon, and the Eo, all contain trout. Passing into 
the province of Lugo, the angler will find several 
streams flowing both to the north and the south. 
Along the indented coast of Coruna many charming 
rivers meet the ocean, and I have heard good 
accounts of the fishing near Ferrol. At Carril and 
Vigo in Pontevedra there are also trout-streams 
not quite unknown to English anglers. At Vigo 
there are a fair number of British residents. 

Richard Ford, in ' Murray's Handbook for Spain,' 
often refers to the salmon and trout rivers of the 
Peninsula. His information is not always reliable. 

200 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

for conditions have changed since he lived in Spain, 
and, moreover, one cannot be sure that he fished in 
any of the rivers which he describes. I do not wish 
to underrate this observant and entertaining writer, 
who possessed an intimate knowledge of Spanish 
people and places. But it is right to point out that 
his notes on fishing need revision. For example. 
Ford refers to the Minho as a splendid salmon- 
river, which indeed it ought to be, but at the present 
time it cannot be recommended to the angler. 

Taking a line from the eastern slopes of the 
Pyrenees to Coruiia, on the Atlantic Ocean, 
there are hundreds of wild streams producing more 
or less trout. Some of these rivers, as we have 
seen, contain plenty of fish, and in this northern 
district the fisherman will never find himself more 
than a league or so from a sport -yielding stream. 

The Ebro waters the north-eastern region of 
Spain, and flows into the Mediterranean Sea to the 
south of Tarragona. Its source is in the province 
of Burgos, on the slopes of the Cantabrian Moun- 
tains. A tributary flows through the city of Burgos, 
and, upon the authority of a Spaniard, this stream 
holds big trout. Above Miranda, south-west of 
Vitoria, the Ebro is a good trout-river. This length, 
and other waters in the North of Spain, were 

Trout Streams and Coarse Fish Rivers 201 

described in a series of fishing articles that appeared 
in the Field during 1901. There is little doubt 
that the rivers draining from the Pyrenees, on the 
Spanish side, would afford sport to the fly fisherman. 

Travelling southwards from the mouth of the 
Ebro, we reach a river called the Mijares, or 
Millares, which waters the province of Teruel. 
Mr. Edward Dodgson, who knows the town of 
Teruel, tells me that there are trout in this river. 
I have no definite knowledge concerning the 
trout-fishing in the province of Granada, on the 
south coast. But I have been told by an English 
resident in Spain that the streams flowing from 
the Sierra Nevada contain plenty of trout. This 
wild and magnificent range, with its summits of 
over 11,000 feet, provides sport with the gun as 
well as with the fishing-rod. 

The turbid Guadalquivir and the Tagus are 
coarse fishing rivers, though some of the tribu- 
taries of the Tagus, flowing into its higher reaches, 
produce trout. Rounding Cape St. Vincent, we 
soon approach Portugal, a land of many rivers, 
all of them containing fish of various kinds, from 
trout to barbel. 

Among the fishing waters that I have not 
already mentioned are some streams in the 

202 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

neighbourhood of Pueblo de Tribes, in the 
province of Orense. If time had permitted, I 
would have visited this district, for I have a very 
encouraging report from an English angler con- 
cerning the trout of these rivers. To the south- 
east of this town, which is reached by coach from 
Rua Petin, on the Monforte line, is the Lago de 
Castanedd, which is said to provide excellent 
sport with big trout. Near the Pueblo de 
Sanabria, to the south-east of Castanedd, are 
several streams mentioned by Ford. 

The angler who visits Spain will no doubt find 
the selection of his fishing streams somewhat 
perplexing, when he examines the map. Rivers 
abound in the north, in Portugal, and along the 
Mediterranean ; they are traced in bewildering 
profusion upon the map of the Peninsula, and 
suggest unlimited exploration. I realize that we 
may have missed many good streams that flow 
along, or near to, our route. Years instead of 
months would be needed to explore thoroughly all 
the fishable waters of Spain and Portugal. The 
fisherman who cares to follow in our track may 
gain assistance from an epitomized sketch of a 
month's tour. 

Let us suppose that you have arrived at Irun 

Trout Streams and Coarse Fish Rivers 203 

from Paris. Stay one day in Irun, and book a 
place in the coach for Oyeregui on the following 
noon. From the Palacio Reparacea fish the 
Bidasoa for a week. Return to Irun. A long 
day's railway-ride will take you to Ampuero and 
Marron station on the Ason, via Bilbao, or you 
may break the journey, and try the Deva at the 
fourth station from San Sebastian. From Am- 
puero travel to Renedo, by way of Santander, a 
journey which will occupy the greater part of a 
day. Fish the Pas from Renedo, and proceed to 
Bonar on the railway from La Robla to Bilbao. 

From Bonar journey to Ponferrada through 
Le6n. Fish two days in the Sil at Ponferrada, 
engage a guide in the town, and take coach for 
Matarosa, higher up the river. Return by coach 
to Ponferrada, and take the train to Los Pearas 
beyond Orense. It will be advisable to write to 
Senor Vicente Sastre, Los Pearas, Provincia de 
Orense, to ascertain whether he has a vacant room. 

This tour will absorb most of your month, 
unless you hurry from one place to another, 
regardless of the condition of the water. If the 
Ason was giving sport, it would be ill-advised to 
leave it quickly, though, on the other hand, if you 
devote too many days to one river, you will not 

204 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

gain a knowledge of the country. Your own 
predilections and discretion must guide you. Let 
us imagine, however, that you have more than a 
month at your disposal. In that case you may 
continue your excursion into Portugal, fish the 
rivers between the mouth of the Minho and 
Oporto, and return to England by steamboat, or 
via Salamanca, Irun, and Paris, a journey of 
about fifty hours. 

As an alternative route after your stay at 
Ponferrada, you may proceed to Villafranca del 
Vierzo, where report states that trout are 
abundant, and find your way by rail and coach 
from Lugo to the Eo, Navia and Nalon rivers in 
Asturias, and back to Irun by the line through 

I cannot speak from personal knowledge of the 
rivers flowing from the Pyrenees on the Spanish 
side, nor of the numerous streams of Eastern 
Spain running into the Mediterranean Sea. I 
have heard that the sea-fishing is good near 
Barcelona and other ports upon this coast. 
There is plenty of sport for the sea-angler all 
around the shores of the Peninsula from the Bay 
of Biscay to the Atlantic, and in the Mediterranean. 



An angler writing for the instruction and guidance 
of brothers of the rod should never conceal his 
errors and failures, for, in the words of a half- 
remembered saw : * By others' faults wise men 
amend their ways.' Therefore, if you are wise, 
you will not be misled, as I was, by the counsel of 
tackle-makers who tell you that very fine casts 
are necessary for the capture of the * small trout ' of 
Spain. These gentleman have never fished in the 
Peninsula. Their judgment is based upon the 
orders for tackle that they have received from 
Englishmen living principally in the South of 
Spain. I can only say that in the northern and 
central districts there are but few rivers of any 
importance that do not contain big trout. My 
losses include fish of 4 pounds in weight, hooked 
while fly fishing, and the heaviest trout brought to 

2o6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

hand was 2 pounds. Trout weighing i pound are 
by no means uncommon in the Ason, the Pas, and 
tributaries of the Sil and Minho, while in these 
two main rivers trout grow to the weight of our 
heaviest ferox. A pound trout in the Sil fights 
like a demon, heads for tumbling water, tears out 
the reel-line, and gives more sport than a two- 
pounder in a chalk stream in England. You may 
be able to hold and tire him on a fine-drawn cast, 
and I dare say I shall be told that any fairly 
expert fisherman can do so. Let that be as you 
please ; but, for my part, though I detest coarse 
tackle, I would not go again into Spain without 
gut strong enough to put a severe strain on two 
and three pound trout. In the chief rivers, where 
there is usually a full flow of water in the spring 
months, the hungry trout take the fly viciously, 
fight fiercely, and are not gut shy. Of course, in 
the small tributaries, during seasons of low-water, 
it is advisable to fish fine, and to have only one 
fly on the cast. But in the big rivers let your 
tackle be of the best, well tested, and only of 
medium fineness. For spinning in the Sil and 
Minho, you will require casts of the grilse 
Take a liberal supply of casts, or gut lengths. 

A Mixed Creed of Practicalities 207 

with you. Do not forget spare swivels, Stewart 
hooks, shot, cobbler's wax, binding silk, thread, a 
spring-balance, and material and solution for 
mending wading-stockings. I will here give a 
list of the flies that proved the most attractive to 
the trout of Spain and Portugal. Those marked 
with an asterisk are hackle-dressed ; the others 
are the ordinary winged patterns used for wet-fly 
fishing. I am not barring cock-winged, beautifully 
constructed dry flies. These may be taken, and I 
believe that they would do good work on the 
pools of many of the rivers, especially after the 
end of May. 

1. Blue Dun (two sizes). 

2. March Brown (two sizes). 

3. Olive Dun. 

4. Ditto.* 

5. Orange Dun.* 

6. Wickham's Fancy. 

7. Red Quill Gnat. 

8. Stone-Fly. 

9. Black Gnat. 

10. Whirling Blue Dun. 

11. Partridge and Green 


12. Teal and Green Body. 

13. Dark Yellow Partridge. 

Nos. II, 12, and 13 should be sea-trout or loch 
size. I am not aware that the Spanish salmon 
evince a preference for any specific pattern of 
fly. Ordinary salmon-flies in four or five dressings 
should be taken. 

We now come to the question of the handiest 
rods. A sixteen-foot salmon-rod of greenheart or 

2o8 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

split cane will serve very well both for salmon and 
for the heavy trout of the Sil. There is such 
difference of taste among fishermen as to the 
length of a trout-rod that it will be better for the 
angler to use his own judgment. My own trout- 
rod was a rather heavy greenheart, ii feet in 
length, while my wife used one of lo feet, of 
lighter make. If the visitor does not object to 
encumbering himself with impedimenta, he may 
take an extra trout-rod. In any case he should 
have a second top joint. A short bottom-fishing 
rod may be taken for legering and coarse fishing. 
A long-handled landing-net, with a spike at the 
bottom, is an aid in preserving one's balance while 
wading on the rough beds of the strong Spanish 
streams. A gaff should not be forgotten. The 
best reel for spinning for big trout is a wooden 
Nottingham, with an optional check and line 
guard. This may also serve for salmon if the 
angler wishes to limit his paraphernalia. But if 
he prefers to use a metal check- reel for fly fishing 
for salmon he should take one. Two metal check- 
reels for trout-fishing should certainly form part 
of the kit. It is not absolutely essential to add 
another reel to the list for bottom fishing, but if 
the angler has any intention of fishing in the sea, 

A Mixed Creed of Practicalities 209 

or trying his fortune with the big barbel of the 
Douro, he should provide himself with suitable 
winches. A creel is somewhat cumbrous when 
travelling. I prefer a bag of waterproof canvas 
or stout jean, which can be used as a haversack to 
carry a number of articles when moving from place 
to place. Unless the traveller is fortunate enough to 
possess a valet, he should study compactness and 
portability in the selection of his accoutrements. 

Wading-trousers would be found useful, but they 
are exceedingly hot for wear in such a country as 
Spain. I contented myself with a pair of ordinary 
wading-stockings. These should be of good quality 
and as light as possible. Canvas brogues may be 
chosen in preference to those made of leather, as 
they weigh less and are easier to pack. My wife 
used a pair of the canvas and hemp-soled Basque 
shoes for wading. These wonderfully well-made 
shoes cost but eightpence a pair, and can be pur- 
chased in all parts of Spain. The soles grip fairly 
well upon slippery rocks, and the shoes are light to 
carry. If you wear out four pairs, you will only 
have spent about half a crown. 

The choice of clothing is a matter of individual 
predilection. I wore a Burberry camel-hair knicker- 
bocker suit, with Norfolk jacket fitted with four 


2IO Fishing and Travel in Spain 

capacious pockets. The coat was unlined. The 
great essential is that the clothing should be light, 
and at the same time able to withstand hard wear. 
For ladies the skirt should be short, with a contriv- 
ance for raising it while wading. Short mackin- 
tosh coats to reach the waders will be required. 
For headgear there is nothing better than the 
gaberdine fishing-hats. They are light and cool, 
and a strong wind will not bear them away. The 
Spanish boina is light, but rather hot. Those who 
suffer firom sun-glare may wear a Spanish sombrero 
of felt. A Panama straw hat is calculated to attract 
attention and comment. As Spanish women rarely 
wear hats, any form of feminine headgear will 
arouse interest. A pair of shooting-boots and a 
pair of a lighter make should be taken. 

In travelling from one district to another in 
Spain, marked differences of temperature will be 
noticed. In the mountainous regions it is not safe 
to be without woollen underwear ; for although the 
days are frequently very hot, the air chills rapidly 
after sundown. While journeying by rail and 
during a stay in the towns, fishing-clothes should 
be exchanged for an ordinary walking-suit. Ladies 
who wish to escape notice should not wear tailor- 
cut gowns and travelling-hats. 

A Mixed Creed of Practicalities 211 

The pipe-smoker must learn to appreciate the 
flavour of the coarsely - cut Havana tobacco. 
Scarcely one man in a thousand in Spain smokes 
a pipe. Cigarettes are cheap, but they will scarcely 
suit the palate accustomed to fine brands of 
Egyptian and Virginian manufacture. The im- 
ported cigars are of good quality, but, owing to 
the heavy duty, they cost more than in England. 
English packet tobaccos can be bought in some of 
the towns at a very high price. A poor substitute 
for whisky is the spirit called cafia. It is cheap 
and fiery. Cognac, or aguardiente, is tolerable, and 
very reasonable in cost. The ordinary table wines 
supplied with meals cannot be recommended, as 
many are * doctored' with logwood. The Rioja, 
sold in sealed bottles at a moderate cost, is whole- 
some and agreeable. Excellent wines can be 
obtained in the towns. Good bottled cider is 
sold in the North. The Spanish beer (cerveza) 
resembles lager, and is bought in bottles. There 
are various kinds of aerated waters, and non- 
alcoholic syrups, known as refrescoes. A favourite 
liqueur is anisette. I think I have already said 
enough about the cuisine to prepare the stranger 
for surprises agreeable and otherwise. Those who 
are not habituated to long fasting would be well 

14— -2 

212 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

advised to provide themselves with some portable 
form of concentrated food, such as Brand's beef 

It must be borne in mind that, even in the beaten 
track in Spain, English is rarely spoken, even at the 
big hotels. In the Basque provinces many of the 
better-educated people speak French. But this 
acquaintance with the French tongue noticeably 
declines as one travels South. A great deal can 
be accomplished in Spain by the use of a few 
phrases and gesticulation. There are several 
Spanish and English phrase-books, and the tra- 
veller should take one of these and a pocket 
dictionary. If possible, obtain a few lessons in the 
language before starting. This will aid in a right 
pronunciation. A knowledge of either Italian or 
Latin is of assistance in acquiring Spanish. 

Dismiss from your mind all preconceptions 
anent the dishonesty of the Spanish people. It is 
difficult to account for the origin of this libel upon 
a fine and hospitable race. The popular and 
ignorant idea of the Spaniard is that of a swarthy 
hidalgo, ever ready to pick a quarrel and prone to 
resentment. As a matter of fact, the Spanish 
people are proud of the traditions of their race, 
and show a fine courtesy to the stranger who 
becomes their guest. Whenever we were brought 

A Mixed Creed of Practicalities 213 

into personal relations with Spaniards of all 
classes, we encountered kindness and generosity. 
Never once in Spain, upon any pretext, was an 
extra peseta added to the stipulated charge at the 
fondas and casas de huespedes. Be assured that 
you will not be cheated in Spain. I may note here 
that the laundry work is excellent, and astonish- 
ingly cheap. 

In Spain the title caballero is not dependent 
upon birth or station. The innkeeper equally 
with the duke is accorded the courtesy which he 
extends to others. Any assumption of social 
superiority should be strictly avoided in associa- 
tion with the people. Snobbery, the bane of 
human intercourse, is unknown in Spain. Polite- 
ness costs nothing, and yields an abundant return 
in esteem and ready service. 

When engaging an attendant, it is well to accept 
the recommendation of the keeper of the fonda. 
When you ask your gillie, ' Cuanto pago para el 
dia ?' (How much do I pay for the day ?) you may 
be surprised to hear the answer, *Nada ' (Nothing). 
This is not to be accepted in its literal sense. It 
is merely equivalent to the British * I leave it to 
you, sir.' A boy will be content with a peseta and 
his lunch. The lad will refuse to share the contents 
of your luncheon-bag unless you press the food 

214 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

upon him. This is a rule of his code of politeness. 
I have spoken before of the intelligence of the 
Spanish rustic. Without exception, I found my 
youthful gillies adaptable and helpful in leading me 
to the best lengths of water. 

Before penetrating into the wildest regions, 
especially in the South, inquiries should be made 
at the quarters of the Civil Guard concerning 
a reliable guide, the accommodation, and the 
safety of the proposed route. Brigandage has 
been practically stamped out, but there are still 
one or two districts where highway robbers lie in 
wait for the unwary traveller. 

The visitor to Spain should provide himself with 
a passport. In Barcelona the law enjoins that all 
passports shall be vised by the Consul. Money 
may be taken in circular notes, which can be 
changed in most of the large towns. English 
Bank of England notes are accepted everywhere. 
The rate of exchange varies from day to day. 
Since the war with America it has been greatly 
in favour of the English traveller. In Portugal 
Spanish money can only be changed at a great 
loss, and the value of the exchange of British 
money in that country is much lower than in Spain. 



One can imagine the consternation that would be 
caused in Spain if a law was enforced prohibiting 
the taking of fish from fresh-water by any other 
means save the rod and line. Such a law would 
be stubbornly resisted by the populace. The mass 
of the people in every country need education to 
the end of preserving their own interests, and in 
this respect Spain by no means stands alone. In 
our own country we have witnessed strong opposi- 
tion to measures for the preservation of the fish of 
the Norfolk Broads, and the trout of the Scotch 
rivers, during the annual spawning period. In 
Wales the people are only just beginning to 
comprehend the advantages of the organized con- 
servation of the rivers and lakes. Fishermen who 
have known the Thames all their lives tell us that 
it was never better stocked than at the present 
time. This is due entirely to the increases of rod 


2i6 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

anglers, and to the development of wisdom and 
foresight amongst the fraternity of the angl6. 

Some time must elapse before Spanish legis- 
lators can be convinced of the economic utility of 
a complete revision of the ley de pesca (fishery 
lav^). Beyond the enforcement of a close season 
for salmon, salmon trout, and common trout, and 
a few inadequate rules respecting the use of nets 
in fresh-water, nothing is done to protect fish-life. 
What is the use of protecting spawning fish, when 
thousands of the fry are scooped out of the small 
pools of tributaries with poke -nets during dry 
seasons ? I have seen trout as small as whitebait 
cooked for the table in the Spanish fondas. 
Imagine a poultry-breeder who protects sitting 
hens, and kills the chickens about a week after 
they are hatched. I have referred to the wanton 
decimation of salmon-parr, and the astonishment 
of the natives at our plea for the preservation of 
immature fish. 

I am not prepared to say that the rivers through- 
out Spain could be made the rivals of those of 
Norway. Mr. Kennedy, in his * Thirty Seasons 
in Scandinavia,' tells us of the remarkable pro- 
ductiveness of these Northern rivers. But the Sil 
and the Minho contain even bigger trout than 

The Spanish Fishery Law 217 

those of the Norwegian streams, and are probably 
only to be beaten in weight, and that rarely, by 
the trout of New Zealand. For trout of a sport- 
giving size, Spain is a rival to our own country, 
despite the primitive and defective fishery law. 
There is no doubt that Spain might become a 
fisherman's paradise in the course of a few years. 
This would tend to the general welfare. More 
salmon would ascend the rivers to spawn, and 
more would fall to the rod and line of the angler. 
In the long-run, netsmen in the tidal estuaries 
would benefit, for it is obvious that the more 
salmon that descend the river after spawning, the 
greater will be the number to return to the river 
the next season, and that more smolts will go 
down to come back as grilse. A decade of reckless 
netting in tidal and fresh water will work havoc in 
any river. Add to this the inevitable depredations 
of poachers, employing snares, spears, and deadly 
dynamite, and what chance remains for the un- 
fortunate salmon ? 

Trout hatcheries are almost unknown in Spain. 
A private hatchery was established upon the 
Bidasoa some years ago, and I believe that King 
Alphonso rears trout for turning into his own 
streams. I have also heard of one case of stocking 

2i8 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

a mountain lake in the northern provinces. Trout- 
rearing would not be necessary in Spain if the 
law was revised, poaching suppressed, and the use 
of the net in fresh-water prohibited, except in 
some cases, where the average size of trout in a 
lake might be increased by a discreet thinning of 
undersized fish. Trout are so prolific, and the 
rivers of Spain so excellently adapted for the 
production of fish, that sane methods of pre- 
servation would be alone sufficient for very 
many years to come. Rod fishing could not 
injuriously diminish the stock of fish in such 
rivers as the Ebro, Ason, Deva, Nalon, Pas, 
Besaya, Saja, Minho, and Sil, among many 

Spain might attract anglers from all parts of 
Europe if the State and the people realized the 
source of revenue their rivers could be made to 
yield. The encouragement of legitimate means of 
taking fish will be fostered by the example of 
visiting anglers. When the Pescadores of the 
Basque provinces saw that we could catch trout 
with a rod and fine tackle in the main rivers, some 
of them doubtless reflected that this was a more 
profitable form of fishing than poking about for 
pequenos (little ones) in the brooks. They asked 

The Spanish Fishery Law 219 

us to buy them some flies in England, and seemed 
disposed to review their own methods. It will be 
remembered that at Matarosa the most prosperous 
of the natives earn their livelihood by the legitimate 
capture of trout with rod and line. A speculative 
middle-man of that district purchases the trout 
from these men, and stores them in a refrigerator 
until they can be sent to the market. So far as 
my observation went, these men found that rod 
fishing paid them better than poaching, and it is 
interesting to note that they were all fly fishermen. 
But before rod fishing can become popular in 
Spain the people must be able to buy suitable 
tackle. It is pathetic to watch these keen and 
patient anglers endeavouring to lure trout with 
their big, clumsy flies, salmon gut, and stiff 
bamboo poles. 

Pisciculture is now a question of legislative 
interest in nearly every nation. There is quite a 
literature upon the subject in France. Spain is not 
without its angling writers. In 1850 Francisco 
Fernandez de los Senderos published a work upon 
the fish of the southern coast of Spain. Even as 
early as 1786 there was issued among the records 
a paper upon the * Propagation of Fish and the 
Method of transporting them to other Lakes and 

220 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Rivers.' Ramon de Silva Ferro wrote a memo- 
randum referring to the industry of fishing as 
represented in the Universal Exposition of Paris 
in 1878. One chapter deals with fish-culture, and 
another with the management of salmon-fisheries. 
These are among the few works upon angling 
subjects published in Spain. A list of the books 
upon Spanish fisheries will be found in * Biblio- 
theca Piscatoria.' The sporting literature of Spain 
is concerned almost entirely with the national pas- 
time of bull-fighting. Upon this topic there is 
a mass of authoritative writing. Angling is not 
regarded as a sport in the Peninsula, and has no 
enthusiasts who have been urged to sing its 
charms in verse, nor to write technical treatises 
upon the gentle art. Manuel Pardo, 11 Espoz 
y Mina, Madrid, has a few books upon sport, 
including translations of some English works. 
Among the works of Cervantes I have only noted 
one reference to angling. It is in * Don Quixote,' 
where an innkeeper says, * Sir, you must angle 
with another bait, or you will catch no fish,' as 
a rejoinder to an assertion that the books upon 
chivalry are fictions. 
A copy of the laws relating to shooting and 

ThcilSpanish Fishery Law 221 

fishing (* Caza y pesca ') can be purchased for 
half a peseta at the booksellers' shops in most 
towns. This little pamphlet contains the ordi- 
nances of 1834, 1^79, and 1895. Article I. of the 
Act of 1895 states that the close time for fishing in 
fresh-water for salmon, sea-trout, common trout, 
grayling (umblas), and all fish of the salmon 
family, lasts for six months and a half — viz., the 
first day of August to February 15. For rain- 
bow trout the close time is from October i until 
April 15. It would appear from this rule that 
salmon and trout begin spawning very early in 
the season in Spain, otherwise the enactment is a 
strange one. It will be noted that salmon and 
sea-trout are protected at the very time when they 
begin to afford the best sport in many of our own 
rivers. The season for grayling ends in Spain 
when our own grayling are growing into condition. 
This curtailment of the open season for trout by 
two months, and for salmon by three months, 
seems quite unnecessary. 

Article IV. refers to the modification of the law 
of close time in the case of persons employed in 
the official establishments of pisciculture. I failed 
to obtain information concerning these hatcheries. 

222 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Article VII. deals with the penalties for infrac- 
tion of the fishery law. The Act enjoins that 
persons found fishing without a license will incur 
a penalty of from 5 to 25 pesetas. Offenders using 
dynamite are Hable to a fine of not less than 40 
and not more than 160 pesetas. 

In spite of this and similar decrees, dynamite is 
still used in the Sil and Minho, and it is extremely 
doubtful whether 50 per cent, of the fishermen take 
out a license. These laws practically overlook the 
existence of rod fishermen, but are concerned 
with netting and trapping fish. The legitimate 
angler, in the English sense, is hardly mentioned, 
for the very simple reason that so few persons 
follow fishing as a recreation. 

The order of procedure in obtaining a fishing 
license is somewhat complicated. First of all 
you buy your statutory permit at the estanco. If 
you look in a Spanish dictionary, you will find that 
estanco means ' water-tight, embargo, monopoly, 
tank.' You will be directed to a tobacconist's 
shop, but you must find the right kind of 
tobacconist — that is, one holding authority to 
issue licenses. The license is a green card, 
worded on the front as follows : 

The Spanish Fishery Law 223 


4^ Clase. 5 Pesetas. 

Correspondiente i cddulas personales de 6'' clase 

en adelante. 


El Gobernador Civil 

concedo licencia d. D. V. Valter M. Gallichan 

vecino de San Sebastian con cddula personal de clase 

numero para pescar. En San Sebastian d i8 de Marzo 

de IQ02. 


As a letter W is not in the Spanish alphabet, 
my Christian name proved a stumbling-block to 
the worthy Governor. 

On the back of the license it is announced that 
the holder has the follovv^ing * signs ' — namely, age, 
stature, eyes, beard, colour, and profession. A 
space is left for v^riting these particulars. In our 
case a description of these tokens appeared to be 
unnecessary, unless it was that the oiBcials were 
entirely floored in describing a lady angler. It is 
doubtful whether they had ever been asked to 
issue a fishing-license to a lady. 

This license permits the angler to employ 
methods of taking fish which would involve him in 
heavy penalties if he practised them in the United 

224 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

I have reached the end of my narrative of 
fishing and travel in Spain and Portugal. In 
writing it I have lived again through many of the 
days of a happy spring and summer. Before me 
is a post-card just received from a friend, who is 
wandering in Spain. He writes of blazing sun- 
shine and picturesque towns. The atmosphere 
and the beauty of Iberia are like nothing else in 
Europe, and the people are charming and romantic. 
Farewell, then, for the nonce to the bright land of 
to-morrow, with its inscrutable customs, quaint 
prejudices, courteous people, glorious mountains, 
vast open wastes, brawling rivers, and nimble 
trout ! 


Adaja River, 84-86 
Affife, 186 

Ampuero, 24-46, 203 
Ancora, 186-19 1 
Andalusia, 77, 82 
Antonio (gillie), 124, 129 
Arbo, 158-170 
Arcosa, 186 

Ason, 22, 49, 149, 203, 218 
Asturias, 3, 88, 102, 199 
Avila, 84-87, 103 


Barbel, 195, 209 
Barcelona, 214 
Barco d'Alva, 195 
Basques, 20, 61, 212 
Bears, 89, 125 
Besaya River, 52, 62, 218 
Bidasoa River, 4-21, 99, 217 
Big trout, 205, 206, 217 
Bilbao, 22, 23, 90, 97, 203 
Birds of Spain, 98, 99 
Boga, 93, 102, 160, 169, 174 
Bonar, 90, 95, 96, 203 
Borrow, G., 118, 127, 171 
Brigands, 19 
Burgos, 200 

Caminha, 178 

Cares River, 199 

Castile, 83 

Climate of Spain, 63, 224 

Coria, 75 
Coruna, 199 
Cost of fishing, 151 
Crawfurd, Oswald, 155, 183, 
185, 191 

Dapping for trout, 142 
Deva River, 203, 218 
Diving for trout, 185, 186 
Dodgson, Edward, 185, 201 
Douro River, 89, 180, 192, 195 

Ebro River, 200, 218 
Eels, 78, 125 
Eo River, 204 
Escalo (chub), 161 
Esla River, 88 
Estanislas, 144, 145, 152 


Fishing law in Spain, 215 

tackle, Spanish, 193 
tours, 202-204 

Flies, 36, 40. 45. 55. i33, i47. 

Floods, 64, 92 

Ford, John, 171, 176, 199, 202 

Galicia, 3, 14, 107, 119, 158 
Gancedo, Angel (guide), 131- 
134. 141 
225 15 

226 Fishing and Travel in Spain 

Golden oriole, 99, 175 
Guadalquivir, 69-81, 166, 169, 

Guardia Civil, 113, 140, H^, 

173. 214 


Hatcheries, 217 
Herrick, 189 

Ibex, loi 
Irun, 4-6, 202, 203 

Jose, 71-81 

Kennedy, Mr., 216 
Kit for anglers, 209, 210 

Lago de Castanedd, 202 
Leon Province, 88-97 
License for fishing, 223 
Limpias, 35 
Lindoso, 190 
Los Pearas, 105-120 
Lugo, 204 

Marron, 203 
Matarosa, 66, 130-139 
Minho, 14, 100, 107, 154, 164 

Nalon, 199, 204, 218 
Navia River, 199, 204 
Navarre, 17, 103 


Oliveira, 191 

Oporto, 177, 178, 191, 192 

Orense, 107, 156, 190, 203 

Otters, loi, 175 
Oyeregui, 8, 66 

Palacio Reparacea, 8-21 
Pas River, 54-68, 218 
Passports, 214 
Perez, Daniel, 137, 152 
Poaching, 13-17, 51, 123 
Ponferrada, 121-129 
Portugal, 104, 107, 119, 177 
Pueblo de Tribes, 202 


Quixote, Don, 120 

Renedo, 54, 203 
Rivadavia, 157 
Rua Petin, 201 

Salmon, 33, 42, 178 
Samlets, 28, 32, 34, 40, 61 
Sandianes, 190 
San Esteban, 5 

Sebastian, 23, 51 
Santander, 24, 47 
Sastre, Sefior, iii, 122 
Sea-fishing, 45, 182, 204 
Sea-trout, 33, 43 
Seville, 63, 69, 82, 193 
Shad, 70-81, 164-170 
Sil River, 105-112, 128-153 
Smolts, 25, 61 
Snipe, 100 
Spanish anglers, 32, 33, 50, 51, 

fishing books, 219, 220 
Spinning for trout, no 
Storks, 100 

Tagus, 83, 201 
Tarragona, 200 



Teruel, 201 

Toledo, 83 

Toral de los Vados, 127-129 

Tormes River, 199 

Torrelavega, 52, 54 

Tuy, 171-176 

Uztariz, Marques, 8 

Vianna de Castello, 185, 186 
Vigo, 199 

Walsingham, Lord, loi 
Walton, Izaak, 102 
Weather in Spain, 177, 210, 224 
' Wild Spain,' 2, 51, loi 
Wolves, 8g, 125 
Wye, Derbyshire, 151, 154 

Yanci, 18 

Zamora, 197-199 




Crotvn 8w., cloth gilt, 3s. 6d. net. 

Fishing in Wales. 

H XTbotouob Guibe tor tbe Hug ler» 


Standard. — " No angler can afford to go to Wales without 
putting this modest but compendious little book into 
his pocket." 

Field. — '* No more excellent guide-book to the fishing to 
be obtained in Wales than this by Mr. W. M. 
Gallichan has yet been produced." 

Westminster Gazette. — "A thoroughly practical book. 
It is written by an angler who knows his business, who 
has fished most of the streams and lakes which he 
describes, and who, without any beating about the 
bush, supplies anglers with the facts they want." 





res 5 1934 

FEB 6 1934 

LD 21-100m-7,'33